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Powder in threat to IRS studied

By Louis Galvan The Fresno Bee

(Published April 2, 2000) The Internal Revenue Service center in southeast Fresno was open Saturday and appeared to be operating as usual, a day after the sprawling facility was the scene of police and emergency activity when a female employee reportedly was exposed to a white powdery substance that came from an envelope containing a threatening letter.

Nick Rossi, FBI spokesman, said it was not clear whether the employee actually made contact with the unknown substance, but she didn't appear to be hurt.

He said the substance was sent to a laboratory to be examined in an effort to determine whether it was toxic.

Rossi said FBI agents were assisting in the incident, but that the IRS was conducting the primary investigation.

The Bee was unable to contact any IRS officials Saturday, and a security guard at the center's south gates said that because of the weekend, no one would be available to comment until Monday.

The incident was reported about 9 p.m. Friday, and FBI and U.S. Treasury agents and Fresno police quickly converged on the center.

A hazardous-materials team wearing special gear entered the room where the employee had been working and isolated workers.

No one was transported to any hospitals, according to a dispatcher for American Ambulance.

Meanwhile, Rossi said it's not too uncommon at this time of year for IRS centers to receive threatening letters, some of them filled with strange substances.

The Fresno center, on East Butler Avenue east of Winery Avenue, opened its doors in 1972 and handles returns from Hawaii and most of California. It is one of 10 IRS processing and customer-service centers nationwide.

The center boasts nearly 6,000 employees -- more than 3,200 permanent and about 2,600 seasonal.

The tax season is the busiest time, but the center operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.,1724,148841,00.html

-- Martin Thompson (, April 02, 2000

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