Thursday, November 11, 2010

Former Glendale Teacher Charged in White Powder Mailings

By Eric Yun

A disgruntled former PS 91 teacher decided to get her revenge for a poor performance review by mailing former colleagues a white powdery substance through the mail, according to federal authorities. The FBI charged Anna Catalanotto on October 28 for sending more than 20 powder-laced letters concluding a five-month investigation.

According to the criminal complaint, Catalanotto, who lives on Madison Street in Ridgewood, contacted the FBI in June to complain about several people she believed to be selling drugs in the neighborhood. At a follow-up interview, she also charged that the men were grave robbers who were responsible for the disappearance of her dead father’s body. During this interview, Catalanotto also implicated a Howard Beach woman for selling narcotics.

Shortly following this interview, the FBI noticed a connection between Catalanotto and mysterious packages with a powdery substance that was being mailed to residents in Queens and Long Island.
On September 17, a woman opened an envelope addressed to her husband. The letter contained a Jewish star and the words “Hungarian Connection” and contained a white powder, which upon testing revealed was not hazardous. The letter was purported to have been sent by one of the first men Catalanotto had implicated as a drug dealer to the FBI.

In October, a string of powdered-filled letters arrived in Queens. Letters were sent to various locations in Maspeth, Glendale, Middle Village and Ridgewood. PS 91 in Glendale also reported a suspicious letter delivered on October 14. In all instances, given the potential hazards of a suspicious letter with an unidentified powder, law enforcement had to take all necessary precautions to ensure the safety of the recipient, investigators and surrounding community.

A big break in the investigation occurred when an anonymous tip to NYPD Crime Stoppers alleged that Catalanotto was the culprit of the mailings. The tipster claimed Catalanotto, who had retired from PS 91 with an unsatisfactory rating, used the letters to get back at the principal and former colleagues responsible for her poor rating and for picking on her.

Furthermore, the FBI interviewed a recipient of the powdered letters in October. The victim, a teacher with Catalanotto at PS 87, accused Catalanotto of sending the packages, and he told the FBI that he had begun receiving threatening letters and phone calls since 2001, when Catalanotto accused him of sleeping with her mother. From June 2010, the victim claims he received four suspicious cards that threatened his friends and himself.

All told, the FBI investigated approximately 22 letters sent by U.S. mail that contained white powder since September. In the vast majority of these cases, the intended recipient was acquainted with Catalanotto through PS 91.

Finally, on October 25, FBI in- vestigators conducted surveillance on Catalanotto’s home. They observed a woman believed to be Catalanotto leave the apartment and deposit several envelopes at a nearby mailbox. Working with the US Postal Service, investigators seized and examined the contents of the mailbox and found 13 letters that contained either a powder or bore similar characteristics to previous letters Catalanotto allegedly sent.

Catalanotto is currently in federal custody and has been ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation to determine if she had the mental capacity to withstand trial.

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