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Tax assessor threatened in Florida anthrax hoax


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Tax assessor threatened in Florida anthrax hoax


MIAMI: A federal health agency worker was charged with making a false threat to infect Florida property assessors with anthrax for revoking her tax exemption, prosecutors said.

Michelle Ledgister, who works at the National Institutes of Health in Rockville, Maryland, was arrested in Maryland on Monday, the US Attorney's office said. An anti-terrorism law enacted last year makes it a federal crime to convey false information about anthrax exposure, punishable by up to five years imprisonment.

Anonymous anthrax attacks in 2001 caused panic on the heels of September 11 when they killed five people and sickened 17 others in the United States. The first poisoning was in South Florida, where a tabloid photo editor died after apparently receiving anthrax in the mail. No one has been charged in those cases.

Investigators said Ledgister, 43, left a phone message at the Broward County Property Appraiser's office in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, after it revoked a homestead exemption on property she owned in Florida, increasing her tax bill by $2300 a year.

"You guys now have anthrax spores once again. So do be careful," the arrest warrant quoted her as saying on the tape.

Hazardous materials teams searched the appraiser's office and found no anthrax.

Ledgister is an analyst with the NIH Institute of Allergy and Infection Disease in Maryland but had no access to anthrax as part of her job, an FBI spokeswoman said.


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