Florida man faces bioweapon charge

R.A. Hettinga rah at shipwright.com
Thu Jan 13 17:24:51 PST 2005



Florida man faces bioweapon charge

FBI says accused had poison ricin and several weapons

Thursday, January 13, 2005 Posted: 7:00 PM EST (0000 GMT)

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- An Ocala, Florida, man was arrested by the FBI
after they found the biotoxin ricin in his possession in the home he shares
with his mother.

Steven Michael Ekberg, 22, had at least 83 castor beans and other
byproducts consistent with the manufacture of ricin in his possession, the
FBI said.

Ricin is a poison that can be made from the waste from processing castor
beans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The former waiter also had several weapons, including an AK-47 and an Uzi,
the FBI said.

Ekberg was taken into custody Wednesday night and was scheduled to appear
Thursday afternoon before a federal magistrate in Ocala.

He is being charged with possession of a biological weapon.

"We are still investigating and are trying to determine what his intentions
were, but we have no information that he released it to anyone," said FBI
spokesman Jeff Westcott.

"We believe that he acquired the materials over the Internet, but we are
still investigating," he said.

In their affidavit, FBI officials said they found a number of seeds in
packaging that describes the material as "very poisonous."

They said they also found, in a cardboard box in Ekberg's room, glass vials
containing white granules suspected of being husk-less, chopped castor
beans, a byproduct of the manufacture of ricin.

The FBI said Ekberg has no known ties to terrorists or extremists.

A hazardous-materials team took the substance to the Florida Health
Department laboratory in Jacksonville, where it was confirmed to be ricin,
the FBI said.

FBI biohazard teams swept the house to ensure that no one in the
neighborhood could become contaminated.

Ekberg was arrested on an unrelated weapons and narcotics charge last
weekend by the Marion County Sheriff's Office.

According to the FBI affidavit, an anonymous source now acting as a
confidential source called the sheriff's office and told authorities that
Ekberg showed him the materials several months ago.

"If I put this on your food, this would kill you immediately," Ekberg
allegedly told the source, pointing to the contents of a container,
according to the affidavit.

He then picked up another container and stated words to the effect, "This
would make you really sick," the source allegedly told authorities.

Picking up another container, he said, "This would kill you, but not right

The source told police that Ekberg had two books containing information on
how to make poisons from household chemicals and plants, according to the

Ekberg, who has a license to carry concealed weapons, was in possession of
various handguns at the time of his arrest, in addition to the Uzi and
AK-47, authorities said.

His mother, Theresa Ekberg, told the FBI that he has been treated for
depression, according to the affidavit.

His mother also told authorities that in the past her son had possessed
some "chemicals."

She said that on at least one occasion he showed her something he had
purchased via the Internet and expressed concern that if their cat
inadvertently ate enough of it, the cat would die, according to the

She advised that her son had had the chemicals for several years.

The confidential source, according to the FBI, told authorities that Ekberg
would often mix his anti-depression medication with alcohol and visit bars
carrying concealed weapons.

If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison.

The FBI is still investigating who sent two letters that contained ricin in
2003 through the U.S. postal system. Those letters contained threats and
complaints about labor regulations in the trucking industry.

In 1978, Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian writer and journalist in London, died
after a man attacked him with an umbrella that had been rigged to inject a
ricin pellet under his skin.

R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at ibuc.com>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <http://www.ibuc.com/>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'

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