A Massachusetts man was arrested Thursday and charged with sending letters with white powder to five people, including one to Donald Trump Jr. that landed his wife, Vanessa, in the hospital.
Daniel Frisiello, of Beverly, is accused of mailing five envelopes last month with threatening messages and a white substance, which turned out to be nonhazardous.
He was held during an appearance in federal court in Worcester pending a detention hearing scheduled for Monday.
Frisiello showed no emotion as he was led into court wearing a red polo shirt with his hands cuffed and ankles shackled. A prosecutor said family members told them Frisiello may be on medications for suicidal thoughts. His lawyer did not immediately comment. A voice message left at his home was not immediately returned.
“These kind of hoaxes may not cause physical harm, but they scare the heck out of people,” said Andrew Lelling, U.S. attorney for Massachusetts.
Hoax attacks using white powder play on fears that date to 2001, when letters containing deadly anthrax were mailed to news organizations and the offices of two U.S. senators. Those letters killed five people.
Authorities say Frisiello sent five envelopes early last month that included threatening messages often containing profanities and white substances. The envelopes were postmarked in Boston.
Federal authorities said one of the letters containing powder was sent to Antonio Sabato Jr., the Republican former underwear model and soap opera actor who is running for a U.S. House seat in California.
Other recipients were Debbie Stabenow, the Democratic U.S. senator from Michigan; Nicola Hanna, an interim U.S. attorney in California; and Michele Dauber, a Stanford University law professor who has promoted the effort to recall the judge who presided over the Brock Turner sexual assault case.
The letter to the president’s son was opened by Vanessa Trump on Feb. 12. She called 911 and reported she was coughing and felt nauseous. She was hospitalized briefly.
The substance in the letter turned out to be cornstarch.
The envelope sent to Trump included a typed message calling him an “awful, awful person,” according to court documents.
“I am surprised that your father lets you speak on TV,” the message said. “You make the family idiot, Eric, look smart.”
Frisiello worked for Catholic Charities of Boston’s Peabody child care center. He was placed on leave immediately after the FBI informed the organization of his arrest, a spokeswoman said.
Authorities described in an affidavit now they were led to Frisiello.
A “glitter bomb” sent to Dauber contained a message similar to the message contained in the white powder envelope she was sent, the affidavit said.
A “glitter bomb” is a joke in which someone sends an envelope containing glitter to someone else that then spills out and creates a mess upon opening. The bomb sent to Dauber was sent by a company called shipyourenemiesglitter.com. The owner of the company confirmed that the person who ordered the glitter bomb to Dauber was named Daniel Frisello.
It was later determined that it was paid for with Frisiello’s credit card.
Investigators also went through Frisiello’s trash and found discarded paper that still had some similar typewritten threats on it.