WASHINGTON — A Massachusetts man was arrested Thursday and charged with sending threatening letters containing a harmless white powder to President Donald’s Trump’s eldest son, a U.S. senator, a U.S. attorney, a law professor and an actor, federal prosecutors said on Thursday.
Daniel Frisiello, 24, who lives with his parents in the Boston suburb of Beverly, was charged with five counts of mailing a threat to injure the person of another along with four counts of false information and hoaxes.
Vanessa Haydon Trump opened the letter addressed to “DonalD trump Jr.” at the couple’s New York City apartment on Feb. 12, according to an affidavit written by Inspector Michael Connelly of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and included in the charging documents. She was not harmed but was taken to a hospital as a precaution, the affidavit said. The powder turned out to be corn starch, police sources told NBC News.
The letter, postmarked Feb. 7, read: “You are an awful, awful person, I am surprised that your father lets you speak on TV. You make the family idiot, Eric, look smart. This is the reason why people hate you, so you are getting what you deserve. So shut the **** UP!”
Frisiello also is charged with sending threatening letters with a white powder to Sen. Deborah Stabenow (D-Mich.); Nicola Hanna, the interim U.S. attorney for the Central District of California; Stanford University law professor Michele Dauber; and actor Antonio Sabato Jr., court documents show. Hazardous materials teams were summoned after each letter was opened, but all were determined to be harmless.
The letter to Hanna, which also was postmarked on Feb. 7 and contained white powder that spilled out, read: “That’s for murdering Mark Salling! I Hope you end up the same place as Salling.”
“Glee” actor Salling was a defendant in a child pornography case being prosecuted by Hanna’s office who committed suicide in January, according to Connelly’s affidavit.
Law professor received received threatening ‘glitter bomb’
Prosecutors said Frisiello made a rape threat against Dauber in a “glitter bomb” — a letter that, when opened, spills out glitter onto the recipient and the surrounding area. Law enforcement said by that by tracing financial records, they determined that Frisiello ordered and paid for the glitter bomb to be delivered.
The professor posted on Feb. on Twitter a photo of a “glitter bomb” she received. She is leading a recall effort against against California Judge Aaron Persky for sentencing Brock Turner to six months in jail in the Stanford rape case.
— Michele Dauber (@mldauber) February 6, 2018
The owner of the online store that sent the glitter bomb to Dauber told investigators that Frisiello had attempted to send more than 10 additional glitter bombs to other people — including members of President Trump’s family. The store owner said the orders were not sent because the accompanying messages were perceived as inappropriate or threatening, Connelly wrote in his affidavit.
On Feb. 21, federal agents recovered trash from Frisiello’s home that appeared to contain remnants of the cut-out messages that was sent to the to the victims, according to prosecutors.
Letters to senator and actor criticized them
The letter to Stabenow, postmarked Feb. 12, criticized her for making supportive remarks about Randall Margraves, the father of three victims of former Olympics gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. Margraves tried to attack Nassar, who was convicted of multiple counts of child molestation, in court.
The letter to Sabato, also postmarked Feb. 12, was sent to a company that formerly did business with the former soap opera star and model. He is running as a Republican candidate for Congress in California, challenging incumbent Julia Brownley. He campaigned for President Trump. The letter called Sabato an “awful person” and criticized him for erroneously believing that former President Barack Obama is a practicing Muslim.
Catholic Charities says day-care employee underwent background checks
Frisiello is reportedly employed at Peabody Child Care Center in Peabody, Mass. Catholic Charities of Boston said in a statement that an unnamed employee at the center was “immediately placed on leave” after the FBI informed them Thursday morning of the employee’s arrest. “The FBI has assured us that the charges do not involve any activity in his role at Catholic Charities but concern alleged threats against a political figure. As a matter of background, Catholic Charities processed the appropriate background checks when the employee was hired,” the statement said.
Connelly’s affidavit said a Facebook page that authorities believe belongs to Frisiello includes news articles and comments from “drfisiello” about several of the threatening letters.
Andrew Lelling, the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, said at a news conference: “These kinds of hoaxes may not cause physical harm but they scare the heck out of people because most of us recall the anthrax mailings of the early 2000s, when five people were killed.”
Lelling said his office will aggressively pursue such cases.
“Beyond terrifying the victims, these incidents caused law enforcement agencies around the country to spend time and money deploying emergency response units.” Although no one was harmed, “the defendant allegedly used the internet, the U.S. Mail, and popular fears of biological weapons to threaten and frighten people who did not share his views, and that is something we will prosecute accordingly,” he said.
Frisiello is being held pending a court hearing scheduled for Monday at 2 p.m. EST in Worcester, the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a tweet on Thursday afternoon. Each of the two charges carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000, if convicted.
“This investigation by the Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force sends a strong message to those who seek to terrorize the public by sending powder letters through the mail. Whether real or a hoax, don’t do it,” said Harold Shaw, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston division. “There are plenty of appropriate, lawful ways, to express your opinion and voice your displeasure, but inducing panic and sending what is believed to be a weapon of mass destruction through the mail is certainly not one of them.”