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Originally published Thursday, October 30, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Man arrested in white-powder mailings had been warned

Marc Keyser, the Sacramento man suspected of mailing out 120 hoax anthrax letters nationwide this week, was questioned by FBI agents in a similar case two years ago and warned that such actions were illegal, court documents filed Thursday morning show.

Sacramento Bee

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Marc Keyser, the Sacramento man suspected of mailing out 120 hoax anthrax letters nationwide this week, was questioned by FBI agents in a similar case two years ago and warned that such actions were illegal, court documents filed Thursday morning show.

Keyser, a 66-year-old AIDS and education activist who has been the subject of previous law enforcement probes, was questioned in January 2007 and admitted sending a cylinder marked "anthrax" to the Sacramento News & Review because he wanted publicity for a novel he had written, a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court states.

He was not arrested in the case, but the court documents state that, after the new packages began appearing at media and other outlets nationwide this week, the FBI returned to Keyser's home Wednesday and he admitted that he had sent the packages.

Keyser also then led the agents to 11 unmailed packages in his vehicle, the documents state.

While the agents were questioning Keyser at his apartment, a hazardous materials crew was responding to the Modesto office of Republican U.S. Rep. George Radanovich, where one of the packages had just been opened, an affidavit by FBI special agent Filip Colfescu states.

The court documents indicate that Keyser, who has been questioned since the 1990s for various mailings he has conducted, sent the packet to the News & Review in 2007 with a letter and a CD containing his novel about a fictional anthrax attack.

He chose that weekly newspaper, the documents state, because it had done a story in 2002 "about Keyser's crusade to expose the vulnerability of terrorist attacks on the drinking water system."

At the time, the FBI "explained to Keyser that his actions had disrupted operations at the Sacramento News & Review, had precipitated a full Fire/Hazmat response and law enforcement investigation," Colfescu's affidavit states.

"Further, he was told that such actions were in violation of federal law ... and warned that any further occurrences would likely result in his prosecution."

Keyser apologized and promised never to do it again, the affidavit states. But the FBI now believes he embarked on an even bigger crusade this week when he went to the main Sacramento post office and mailed out hoax packages to media outlets nationwide, including The Bee, as well as a Starbucks and a McDonalds restaurant in Sacramento.

The packets contained sugar packages labeled "anthrax" and a CD copy of his novel, the documents state.

Keyser was arrested late Wednesday and faces three counts in connection with the mailings.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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