OAKLAND – An Oakland man appeared in federal court Friday on charges he mailed an envelope containing white powder and a threatening letter to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft during last year’s anthrax scare.
Dean Wilber, 33, was arrested Thursday at his home. He is charged with threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction — anthrax — after allegedly mailing the letter from Wyoming while on a cross-country bus trip.
The letter prosecutors allege Wilber sent caused an anthrax scare at a Cheyenne, Wyo. post office, where it burst during processing. Workers at the facility were treated with antibiotics in case the substance contained real anthrax, as several letters to government officials did.
The powder turned out to be talcum, but federal authorities and U.S. Postal Service officials saw no joke in the hoax.
“It was traumatic. There was a natural fear that this was the real thing,” said Carol Rookstool, Cheyenne’s postmaster. “We waited a full 36 hours until the tests were absolutely accurate.”
Prosecutors say Wilber was traveling from Maryland to the San Francisco Bay area on Dec. 17 when he mailed the letter from Laramie, Wyo. Wilber was easy to track down because he signed his name, Rookstool said.
Wilber was being held without bail at county jail in Dublin. He was expected to be transferred to Wyoming early next week for an arraignment, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cheyenne.