A 47-year-old Waller County woman has pleaded guilty to mailing explosives intended for Gov. Greg Abbott, former President Barack Obama and the Social Security Administration’s former acting administrator.
According to a U.S. Attorney’s Office press release, Julia Ann Poff of Brookshire admitted Monday to mailing a package around Oct. 2, 2016, that contained a homemade explosive that was addressed to then-President Obama. Her plea, the release stated, also included acknowledgement that she mailed similar packages to Abbott and to the Social Security Administration.
The Bryan FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force led the investigation, according to the release. Poff pleaded guilty to transportation of explosives with the intent to kill, injure and intimidate a person, according to an announcement by U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick and FBI Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner.
U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore accepted the plea, according to the release, and set sentencing for Nov. 18. Poff faces up to 10 years in federal prison, and a maximum fine of $250,000 is possible. Poff will remain in custody until the hearing.
The release stated that each of the three packages Poff mailed “contained a victim-activated, booby trapped, improvised explosive device (IED) containing explosives materials.”
“This was a resource-intensive investigation that involved the safety of the Texas Governor, President of the United States and the Social Security Administration,” Turner said in the release. “Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the threat that Poff posed and the fear she incited was serious and real. The FBI spots, assesses and mitigates threats daily. For the last three years, the men and women of the FBI Bryan Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) and its partners worked relentlessly to bring Poff’s life-threatening actions to an end.”
The Bryan FBI task force conducted the investigation with assistance from the Texas Rangers, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Social Security Administration — Office of Inspector General and from the Department of Agriculture.
According to the press release, the task force is comprised of the FBI, as well as a number of Brazos Valley law enforcement agencies, including sheriff’s offices in Brazos, Waller and Walker counties and the Bryan, Texas A&M University and College Station police departments.
“This is what the FBI does every day to keep our community safe, whether you reside in a private home, the Governor’s House or the White House,” Turner said.
The Washington Post reported in 2017 that of the three packages Poff mailed, only Abbott opened his. The Post reported that, according to court documents, it did not detonate because “he did not open it as designed.”
The Bryan FBI team’s investigation revealed that on Oct. 6, 2016, authorities intercepted a flat rate U.S. Postal Service box at a White House mail-handling facility at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C. According to the release, it appeared upon inspection to contain a bomb. An FBI explosives expert conducted an examination and determined it to be a homemade bomb. Further investigation linked the box — as well as its contents — to Poff or her husband. The release stated that the outer box contained a taped address label and that a cat’s hair was found underneath. The hair proved “microscopically consistent” with the hairs taken from a cat the Poff family cared for and owned, according to the release.
A box contained within the USPS box contained matches, paper wadding and a number of other materials, including a cell phone, pyrotechnics and smokeless powder. Poff’s daughter identified the phone as her old cell phone, which was last seen in their home’s garage in August or September 2016, according to the release. Authorities also learned Poff used her bank debit card to purchase a micro-USB box with the same bar code as the one found in the USPS package.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ralph Imperato, Rob Jones and Alamdar Hamdani are prosecuting the case.