CHICAGO – FBI agents have found needles, syringes, six empty vials of deadly puffer fish toxin and a book about poisoning people in the home of a man who allegedly posed as a doctor to get the legal substance.
Edward F. Bachner IV, 35, charged Monday with illegally possessing the toxin, was once questioned by the FBI in what was described as a possible murder plot, according to papers filed in federal court in Rockford.
Agents arrested Bachner on Monday as he took delivery of a package of the deadly fish toxin at a suburban UPS store. Clad in so-called "moon suits" designed to protect them from hazardous materials agents, agents searched his home in suburban Lake in the Hills, finding the needles and other items.
Bachner appeared Monday night before U.S. Magistrate Judge P. Michael Mahoney in U.S. District Court who ordered him held without bond. Mahoney scheduled a hearing on whether to set bond for 11 a.m. on Wednesday.
A cooperating witness received several anonymous messages in 2005 soliciting the killing of an unnamed woman in the Chicago area, FBI agents said in court papers filed in Rockford. One of the messages offered payment of $8,000 and an AK-47 assault rifle for the job.
"This is intended as a simple termination, not a defilement of said mark," one message said, referring to the target. The messages were sent through a server in Canada that agents said kept few records of its customers.
Agents said they were able to trace the messages anyway and later questioned Bachner about them in January 2006. They quoted him as saying, "I never told them I was Ed Bachner" and "I was bored. I had no intent." The court papers did not say how the investigation was resolved.
Bachner was charged Monday with "knowingly possessed a biological agent, toxin or delivery system, namely, Tetrodotoxin, of a type or in a quantity that under the circumstances is not reasonably justified by prophylactic, protective, bona fide research or other peaceful purpose."
Bachner received large quantities of the fish toxin through the mail from legitimate U.S. distributors by using the alias "Edmund Backer" and pretending to be a doctor doing research as part of a company called EB Strategic Research," agents said.
Bachner was not a doctor and there was no such company, they said.
The substance is a neurotoxin with no known antidote, the FBI laboratory said. Poisoning usually occurs when fish containing the substance are eaten and there is a 40 percent to 50 percent fatality rate.
"If death occurs, it is usually due to respiratory paralysis and can occur within six to 24 hours," the court papers quoted the lab as saying. "The likelihood of survival is strongly dependent on the dose consumed."
Early this month, Bachner pressed a legitimate supplier of the substance for amounts that exceeded the allowed amount, court papers said.
"Dr. Edmund Backer" sought 98 milligrams of the substance when the usual amount requested by researchers was 2 milligrams, FBI agents quoted the supplier as saying. At one point, "Dr. Backer" asked for 25 milligrams "ASAP, preferably tomorrow but can wait until Monday to receive if absolutely necessary." The supplier eventually called the FBI.
The supplier then sent a shipment under FBI supervision.
When Bachner went to the UPS store to collect the shipment of toxin on Monday, agents surrounded him and took him into custody immediately.
Another supplier previously sent a considerable quantity of the toxin to "Dr. Backer," according to the court papers.