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Press Release

Inmate pleads guilty to mailing threats to former Ohio attorney general & prisons director, judges, newspapers

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Ohio
Letters contained powder defendant purported to be anthrax or fentanyl

COLUMBUS, Ohio – An Ohio inmate offered a guilty plea in federal court today to writing at least 15 threatening letters containing powder. In some of the letters, he claimed the powder was anthrax or fentanyl or threatened the use of explosive devices.


Sean Heisa, 36, was indicted by a grand jury in May 2019. He pleaded guilty today to making false information or hoaxes and mailing threatening communications.


Benjamin C. Glassman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, and Joseph M. Deters, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Cincinnati Division, announced the plea offered before U.S. Magistrate Judge Norah McCann King.


According to court documents, from July 2017 to July 2018, Heisa mailed threatening letters while incarcerated to various officials throughout the state of Ohio.


Heisa mailed a letter to the city manager of Painesville in August 2017 and claimed powder contained within the envelope was anthrax.


In the letter, Heisa described several things that were going to happen: “#1 – You are going to have trouble breathing; #2- You are going to die; #3 – You are going to become a martyr for a cause and an organization far bigger than yourself.”


Likewise, Heisa mailed a second letter that month to a magistrate judge in Whitehall, again claiming the powder contained within the letter was anthrax.


Heisa also threatened via letter officials within the Coshocton Municipal Courthouse, Franklin County Common Pleas Court and then-Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine through threatened exposure to anthrax and the use of explosive devices.


Other letters threatened to injure recipients – including the former Ohio prisons director, the Columbus Dispatch, the Circleville Herald and The Ohio State University – by exposure to purported fentanyl.


For example, one letter to a Fairfield County Common Pleas Court judge who had presided over several hearings involving Heisa (involving robbery charges for which Heisa is now serving a combined 37-year sentence) stated: “This is enough Fentanyl to kill you and multiple coworker [sic]. You deserve a more painful death but this will do”


Heisa had access to what he believed to be fentanyl in prison and knew that if he could send enough fentanyl that it could kill someone, which is why he referenced it in many of his letters. Heisa chose to get high on the substance instead.


Heisa was charged by criminal complaint in December 2018 and arrested in January 2019.


Creating false information/hoaxes and mailing threatening communications are each federal crimes punishable by up to five years in prison


U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the investigation of this case by the FBI, and Assistant United States Attorney Jessica W. Knight, who is prosecuting the case.


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Updated October 30, 2019