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The FBI teamed up with the US Postal Service to track down ricin mailing suspect Shannon Guess Richardson using a system that snaps pictures of “every mail piece that is processed”, according to a complaint.
Filed Friday in Texas, the complaint details how federal investigators narrowed down the origin of the letters by reviewing the pieces of mail scanned before and after the ricin containing letters sent to President Barack Obama, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a gun control lobby sponsored by the mayor.
Postmarked in Shreveport, Louisiana, the letters were processed at a regional distribution facility in the city, according to the complaint. Though in Louisiana, the plant also processes mail for parts of Arkansas and Texas, where Shannon Richardson resides, the complaint explains.
By referencing two separate batches of mail processed by the postal service’s Automated Facer Canceller System (ACFS) on May 20, as well as the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program, which takes the actual pictures of the mail, agents determined the mail came from the area around New Boston, Texas, the complaint states.
FBI and the US Postal Service tracked ricin suspect Shannon Guess Richardson down using an advanced system that takes pictures of and tracks every piece of mail sent in the US
The first of the three letters, addressed to mayor Michael Bloomberg, was opened four days later at a mail center in Lower Manhattan. The second was opened two days later in Washington, D.C., by a staffer at The Raben Group, the Bloomberg-sponsored gun control lobbying firm. The third was intercepted on May 30 before reaching President Barack Obama, having been opened at the White House mail facility, the complaint detailed.
Shannon Richardson met in Shreveport with investigators later that day, accused her husband of sending the letters and turned over a book of stamps, which investigators determined on June 3 to be the same book of stamps the ricin letters postage came from, said the complaint posted on the Smoking Gun.
Further investigation led to warrant-less searches of the couple’s New Boston home, turning up castor beans – which contain the toxic ricin poison, saved letters matching those mailed and other physical evidence, according to the report.
The nail in Shannon Richardson’s accusatory coffin was that her husband, Nathaniel Richardson, was found to have been working a 10-hour shift starting 6:30 a.m., which was corroborated by coworkers, the day the letters were postmarked, the complaint states.
Shannon Richardson’s alibi in shambles, she confessed to trying to set her husband up, she mailed the letters – a photo finish to a lie and, perhaps, her marriage.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has ordered number plate-based petrol rationing, 10 days after Hurricane Sandy battered the city.
Fuel shortages since the superstorm hit have led to hours-long waiting times at pumps, and traffic chaos for commuters struggling to get to work.
Similar measures were introduced in New Jersey on Saturday and will also be enforced in New York’s Long Island.
Only 25% of New York’s petrol stations are operating, Michael Bloomberg said.
Under the rationing system, cars with licence plates ending in odd numbers will be allowed to buy fuel only on odd-numbered days of the month; cars with even numbers at the end of their licence plates will be allowed to buy petrol on even-numbered days.
“We have to do something, and this is something that is practical and enforceable and understandable, and doing something is a lot better than doing nothing,” Michael Bloomberg said.
But the owner of one petrol station was more cautious.
“It’s more pressure on us,” Ash Gaied said.
“They yell. They curse. You wouldn’t believe it.”
The rule will come into effect at 06:00 EDT on Friday, the mayor announced.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has ordered number plate-based petrol rationing, 10 days after Hurricane Sandy battered the city
New York City’s yellow taxis and emergency vehicles are exempt from the rationing rules.
Sandy – which started as a hurricane but was dubbed “Superstorm Sandy” as it moved inland – struck the US East Coast on Monday last week.
It devastated parts of New Jersey and New York, causing record flooding and widespread power cuts.
More than 100 people were killed as the storm barreled inland across Pennsylvania, and estimates suggest Sandy may have caused between $30 billion and $50 billion in property damage and lost business.
A unseasonably early snowstorm that hit New York on Wednesday has compounded the misery for some residents in the area, who have yet to regain electricity since being were cut off last week.
Parts of neighboring Connecticut saw more than 1ft (30cm) of snow on Wednesday, and wind speeds of as much as 50 mph (80 km/h) – and resulted in power cuts for about 300,000 customers.
Fuel shortages and difficulties in restoring power are hampering efforts to restore normality to parts of the US north-east in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Fights broke out at petrol stations in New York and New Jersey, and power suppliers warned some areas might not have electricity until November 11th.
Anger is also rising in New York’s Staten Island, with some residents saying they had been forgotten.
More than 90 deaths in the US have now been blamed on Hurricane Sandy.
The cost of the storm to the US is now put at about $50 billion.
Meanwhile, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has endorsed President Barack Obama for next week’s presidential election, saying Storm Sandy had highlighted climate change, and that only one candidate saw this as an “urgent problem”.
Residents and workers of areas affected by Storm Sandy will wake on Friday to continued problems of transportation, lack of electricity and a dearth of fuel.
At many petrol stations there have been long lines of cars and of people carrying jerry cans.
One owner of a fuel station in New Jersey told the New York Times he had been pumping petrol for 36 hours and had to call the police and turn off the pumps temporarily as tempers among customers rose.
There were reports of sharp price increases by some suppliers.
Fuel shortages and difficulties in restoring power are hampering efforts to restore normality to parts of the US north-east in the wake of Hurricane Sandy
Well over half of petrol stations in New Jersey and in New York City remain closed.
Power officials hope to restore electricity to all of Manhattan and more areas on Brooklyn by Saturday, with more underground lines opening.
Train fares remain free on Friday and a ban on cars with fewer than three people inside will stay in place in Manhattan on Friday.
But Consolidated Edison, the power company serving New York, warned that some areas of the city would be blacked out until 11 November.
Almost 45% of customers in New Jersey and some 15% in New York State remain without electricity.
New York West Village resident Rosemarie Zurlo told Associated Press she was abandoning her flat temporarily and heading to Brooklyn: “I’m leaving because I’m freezing. My apartment is ice cold. Everybody’s tired of it.”
Some 19 people are now known to have died in the south-western New York City borough of Staten Island.
The storm swamped the low-lying district with tidal surges, lifting whole houses off their foundations.
Anger is rising there at the delay in bringing aid, with litter piling up and residents poring through the debris of storm-ravaged homes.
James Molinaro, the borough’s president, complained the American Red Cross was “nowhere to be found”.
He said: “We have hundreds of people in shelters. Many of them, when the shelters close, have nowhere to go because their homes are destroyed. These are not homeless people. They’re homeless now.”
One resident, Theresa Connor, told Reuters her neighborhood had been “annihilated”.
“They forgot about us… And Bloomberg said New York is fine. The marathon is on.”
New York City councilman James Oddo said: “If they take one first responder from Staten Island to cover this marathon, I will scream.”
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and a senior Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) official, Richard Serino, will visit the borough on Friday.
Michael Bloomberg defended the decision to hold the race, saying: “This city is a city where we have to go on.”
National Guardsmen and community groups are being deployed in New York and New Jersey amid mounting fears for elderly residents stranded in their homes.
Aid worker Monique George told AP: “In some cases, they hadn’t talked to folks in a few days. They haven’t even seen anybody because the neighbors evacuated.”
In Hoboken, New Jersey, some 20,000 people are still trapped in their homes as floodwaters slowly recede.
Officials warned residents not to walk in water polluted with sewage and chemicals.
Hurricane Sandy arrived on the US Atlantic coast on Monday night, bringing hurricane-strength winds, flooding and blackouts.
The number of dead in the US now exceeds the toll from the Caribbean, where 69 people were killed by Sandy.
Meanwhile, campaigning for Tuesday’s US presidential election – suspended earlier in the week – has fully resumed.
Barack Obama received a boost with the endorsement of Michael Bloomberg.
Of the two candidates, the New York mayor said, “one sees climate change as an urgent problem that threatens our planet; one does not”.
“I want our president to place scientific evidence and risk management above electoral politics.”
Both candidates are now awaiting the final key economic figures to be released before Tuesday’s election.
The US Labor Department will announce the latest job figures at 12:30 GMT, and they may play a key role in the final days of campaigning
New York City’s public transport system will be suspended tonight ahead of the arrival on Monday of Hurricane Sandy.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said the subway, bus and train services would shut down from 19:00 on Sunday.
As many as 375,000 people have been ordered to evacuate low-lying areas, and schools will be shut.
Sandy’s winds are set to intensify as it merges with a wintry storm from the western US. A number of states on the East Coast have declared an emergency.
Up to 60 million people could be affected by the storm, which is set to hit several states key to the 6 November presidential election
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have modified their campaign engagements. President Barack Obama described the storm as “big, serious and slow-moving” – and said it would pose additional problems.
“It is important for us to respond big and to respond fast,” he said after a meeting at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Asked whether the storm would affect the vote, Barack Obama said: “We don’t anticipate that at this point but we’re obviously going to have to take a look.”
Republican candidate Mitt Romney has cancelled an event scheduled for Sunday in Virginia, a key election state, because of the weather, and was instead heading to Ohio.
Hurricane Sandy has already killed 60 people in the Caribbean during the past week.
At 11:00 EDT, the eye of Hurricane Sandy was about 250 miles (400 km) South of Cape Hatteras in North Carolina, and 575 miles south of New York City, according to the National Hurricane Center.
With winds of 75 mph, it was expected to bring a “life-threatening” surge flooding to the Mid-Atlantic coast, including Long Island Sound and New York Harbour.
The centre said winds were expected to be near hurricane force at landfall.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said people needed to start taking action immediately.
New York City’s public transport system will be suspended tonight ahead of the arrival on Monday of Hurricane Sandy
Michael Bloomberg said the worst of the storm would hit New York on Monday, but warned that a storm surge expected later on Sunday could do “plenty of damage”.
“I don’t want anybody to go to bed tonight thinking that they can spend the day worrying about the night after,” he said.
The mayor said 375,000 people living in low-lying areas should leave on Sunday.
In his warning, Governor Cuomo said he did not want to overreact, but to be “prudent”. He urged people not in low-lying areas to stay at home.
Flights were expected to be affected – Air France says it will cancel all flights into New York and Washington DC on Monday.
However, the New York Stock Exchange announced it would open as usual on Monday.
“We continue to monitor the situation and to communicate with government officials, regulators, and markets participants,” NYSE spokesman Rich Adamonis told Reuters news agency.
Similar precautions were taken last year as Hurricane Irene approached the East Coast. It killed more than 40 people from North Carolina to Maine and caused an estimated $10 billion worth of damage.
FEMA director Craig Fugate said: “This is not a coastal threat alone. This is a very large area.”
Its safety tips include preparations for and what to do during and after a hurricane.
While the East Coast is used to extreme weather, Sandy is causing concern to meteorologists who fear it could mutate into a “Frankenstorm” as it merges with a winter storm in the run-up to Halloween.
It is only moving north-east at 14mph, and could hit as many as 12 states, bringing up to 25 cm of rain, 60 cm of snow, extreme storm surges and power cuts.
States of emergency have been declared in Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington DC and a coastal county in North Carolina.
The NHC said further strengthening was possible on Sunday, before Sandy touched down anywhere between Virginia and southern New England late on Monday.
In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie pleaded with residents not to be complacent.
“I know everyone’s saying this isn’t going to happen… that the weathermen always get it wrong,” he said.
He urged people to stock up on essentials in case they were trapped at home for a few days.
“We have to be prepared for the worst here. I can be as cynical as any of you but when the storm comes, if it’s as bad as they’re predicting it will be, you’re gonna wish you weren’t as cynical as you might otherwise have been.”
Delaware has ordered a mandatory evacuation of 50,000 people from coastal areas.
Earlier in the week, Hurricane Sandy caused havoc as it ploughed across the Caribbean, killing at least 44 people in Haiti, 11 in Cuba and four more in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and the Bahamas.