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Suspicious mail closes federal courthouse

by David Cole
| June 15, 2010 9:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - The U.S. District Court building was closed to the public for the second half of the day Monday after a piece of mail was received containing a suspicious white powder.

The building was closed off as hazardous response personnel did field testing of the mail's contents. The building wasn't completely evacuated, as the mailroom was sealed off from the rest of the building. The suspicious mail was sent to a branch office of the U.S. Attorney's Office in the building.

An FBI spokeswoman said Monday night that field testing of the mail contents from there showed no hazardous substances.

The FBI office in Coeur d'Alene, at 250 Northwest Blvd., received a similar piece of suspicious mail. Test results also were negative there.

The FBI said a total of eight federal government locations received suspicious mail Monday, in the states of Idaho, Washington and Utah.

"For every incident there will be follow-up lab testing to make certain nothing was hazardous," said Debbie Dujanovic Bertram, a spokeswoman for the FBI's Salt Lake City division, which covers Idaho, Montana and Utah.

She said there were no reported injuries or illnesses associated with the suspicious mail.

Don Robinson, supervisor of the FBI's Coeur d'Alene office, said four federal offices in Idaho received suspicious mail.

A letter received at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boise was opened and had a white powder in it, Robinson said.

In addition to the Boise letter and the two in Coeur d'Alene, the FBI office in Pocatello also received one.

Robinson said the letters were similar in their outward appearance and return mail address. He declined to provide details about the return mail address.

Bertram said all the Idaho and Utah letters were negative for hazardous substances, according to field-test results.

In Washington, envelopes were found at a federal building in Seattle, Internal Revenue Service offices in Bellevue, and an FBI office in Spokane, Special Agent Frederick Gutt said.

In Bellevue, police evacuated the IRS building soon after an employee in the criminal investigations department opened a letter with the powdery substance Monday afternoon, police officer Carla Iafrate said.

The employee, Iafrate said, was taken to Overlake Hospital as a precaution.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Boise also was evacuated as a precaution.

The FBI is investigating if the incidents are linked. Gutt said it would be "logical" they would be.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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