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Florida man faces bioweapon charge

FBI says accused had poison ricin and several weapons


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Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Bioterrorism

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.

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 away."

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

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 affidavit.

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.


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