Skip to main content

Feds: Threats, white powder followed bank failure

  • Story Highlights
  • Suspect ID'd as Richard Leon Goyette, aka Michael Jurek
  • He was arrested Monday at the Albuquerque, New Mexico, airport
  • Complaint says Goyette, 47, was upset over losses from Washington Mutual failure
  • He allegedly sent 65 threatening letters; all but one included white powder
  • Next Article in Crime »
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

(CNN) -- The man arrested in the mailing of 65 threatening letters to banks and federal offices apparently had been irate about losing thousands of dollars in stock when a bank failed, a criminal complaint states.

The suspect is Richard Leon Goyette, 47, also known as Michael Jurek. He was arrested on Monday at the airport in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Details of the case were spelled out in the complaint, released Tuesday by the U.S. attorney's office in Dallas, Texas.

All but one of the 65 letters, mailed on October 18 from Amarillo, Texas, contained an unidentified white powder and "a threat that the person breathing the powder would die within 10 days," the U.S. attorney's office said.

The powder tested negative for toxic materials.

Goyette was to make an initial appearance on Tuesday before a U.S. magistrate in Albuquerque.

"Mr. Goyette's alleged criminal actions caused emergency responders and hazardous response teams immense unnecessary labor and expense, diverted personnel from actual emergencies, completely disrupted business at these financial institutions, and caused untold emotional distress to those who received the letters," said acting U.S. Attorney James Jacks.

"Richard Goyette's arrest as the mailer of the 'Chase Bank letters' should serve as a warning to those who believe they can anonymously use the mail to terrorize the American public," said Randall C. Till, postal inspector in charge of the Fort Worth division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

The complaint charges that Goyette "knowingly and intentionally conveyed false and misleading information" when he sent letters to Chase Bank, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and the Office of Thrift Supervision. Each offense carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Investigators believe the mailings stemmed from the suspect's anger over the failure of a bank and how it was handled.

In September, the OTS seized Washington Mutual Bank from its holding company, Washington Mutual, Inc., and placed it into receivership. "The FDIC was named receiver and as a result, the value of the stock in the holding company, Washington Mutual, Inc., fell to less than one dollar per share," the attorney's office said. The next day, "the FDIC sold the bank's deposits, branches, and loan portfolio to JP Morgan Chase & Co."

In late September, a person using the address sent two e-mails to OTS criticizing the deal.

On September 26, the e-mailer said he lost $63,525 on his stock in Washington Mutual, Inc. He called OTS and FDIC corrupt and accusedJP Morgan Chase of "shaft[ing] a second set of shareholders." He sent a nearly identical e-mail to the FDIC that same day.

In a September 29 e-mail, the writer gave his name and address as Richard Goyette, PO Box 2322, Tijeras, New Mexico.

"I told myself I was not going to accept anymore losses due to the reasons I mentioned. I have pursued a path of doing things right, but unfortunately I've paid a terrible price for those who will do whatever it takes to defraud, steal, manipulate, and screw over average stockholders. This seizure was the final straw and I will now pursue any path to get the return of my investment. Since legal means are apparently useless, I will have to consider any viable method applicable to rightfully reclaim my stolen funds," the writer said in part.

He sent "a nearly identical e-mail to the FDIC" on September 29, the complaint stated.

On October 7, he sent an e-mail to an attorney who had been retained to handle investor inquiries for Washington Mutual.

"[I will] most likely have to employ the same type of tactics used to cheat WaMu shareholders to recover stolen assets if all meaningful efforts to rectify this situation don't come to fruition," the e-mail said.

Anonymous letters then started arriving at Chase Bank, OTS, and FDIC offices across the country, with the letters received in 11 states and the District of Columbia.

The letters included the phrase "Steal tens of thousands of people's money and not expect reprecussions."

A 65th letter, to JP Morgan Chase, didn't contain the white powder, but threatened the "McVeighing of your corporate headquarters within six months" -- an apparent reference to the bomber of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995, Timothy McVeigh. The letter also threatened to "utilize any strategy and tactic to inflict financial damage to your company."

The probe found that a computer at the University of New Mexico's Albuquerque campus was used in October to get into the Chase Web site and look for addresses "for nearly all of the Chase Bank locations that later received white powder threat letters. The same computer was used the same day to access OTS's Web site and search for all the OTS office locations that later received white powder threat letters. It was also used the same day to access the FDIC's Web site."

A computer at Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque was used to do branch locator searches on the Chase Web site on September 30.

"Records obtained from Yahoo! show that Goyette's angry e-mails to FDIC and OTS in late September were also sent from a computer at Central New Mexico Community College," the U.S. attorney's office said in a statement.

The U.S. attorney's office said Goyette rented a car a day before the threatening letters were postmarked in Amarillo. He used his New Mexico's driver's license under the Jurek name to rent the car in Albuquerque. The car was returned 24 hours later, with 630 miles added on the odometer. It is about 284 miles from Albuquerque to Amarillo.

All About Washington Mutual Inc.JP Morgan Chase & Co.Office of Thrift Supervision

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print