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FBI Arrests Queen Mary Worker in Anthrax Scare

October 19, 2001|LOUIS SAHAGUN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An employee of the Queen Mary was charged Thursday with threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction and making criminal threats in connection with an anthrax scare at the Long Beach floating tourist attraction, authorities said.

Dionicio Garcia, 20, was arrested Tuesday by the FBI after he allegedly wrote, including a misspelling, the words "DANGER. DO NOT OPEN. ANTRAX" on a white five-gallon bucket of rotten beans and chili, said Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

It was the first felony case filed in Los Angeles County involving an anthrax hoax. Garcia faces up to seven years in state prison if convicted on all counts.

His boss described the incident as a prank that backfired.

The bucket was discovered in a dumpster by a carpenter on the Queen Mary as he was tossing out trash, officials said. The area was sealed off for several hours while the contents of the bucket were tested.

"No anthrax was found, just rotten beans and chili," Gibbons said.

According to the police report, Garcia noticed a security guard staring into the dumpster and asked, "Is this about the white bucket?"

The guard said, "Yes." Garcia responded, "Oh, that's just old spoiled beans."

Garcia, a fast-food cook, was arrested a short time later.

On Thursday, he pleaded not guilty in Long Beach Superior Court to two felony and two misdemeanor counts. Judge Elvira Austin set bail at $500,000 and Garcia remained in custody.

"We are taking this case very seriously," Gibbons said. "Hopefully, it will warn people away from trying, for any reason, to use this phenomenon that is scaring all Americans to death."

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