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Claremont man is arrested in mailings of powdery substance to DCFS offices

January 28, 2011 |  4:13 pm

A Claremont man was arrested Friday on suspicion of sending threatening letters containing a powdery substance to the Department of Children and Family Services and the Los Angeles County children's courthouse, officials said.

Martin Calvin Yarbrough, 48, was taken into custody without incident by the FBI and the United States Postal Inspection Service at his home.

A federal grand jury on Tuesday indicted Yarbrough on 13 counts of making threats and hoaxes. Authorities say Yarbrough mailed the envelopes over the course of 18 months.

"Using threatening letters and hoax powders to convey discontent is a serious crime," said Steven Martinez, assistant director of the FBI in Los Angeles.

According to the indictment, Yarbrough sent a series of envelopes through the U.S. Postal Service to various offices of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services. He also sent them to the Edmund D. Edelman Children's Court in Monterey Park.

Authorities said each letter contained a bluish grainy substance determined to be a chemical poison. The letters were mailed between November 2008 and May 2010 to Department of Children and Family Services offices in Covina, Lancaster, El Monte, Chatsworth, Los Angeles, Santa Fe Springs, Pomona and Monterey Park, officials said.

When employees at the facilities opened the envelopes and discovered the powder, several people were evacuated. Hazardous materials teams from multiple agencies responded to conduct field testing to determine if the powder was a threat. The powder was tested for bacterial biothreat agents and other substances.

Martinez said the major law enforcement response needed to deal with the incident was a huge waste of taxpayer money that required extensive field and lab testing by hazardous materials experts and public health officials.

If convicted, Yarbrough would face a maximum of five years in prison for each of the 13 counts.

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-- Nate Jackson

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