A Pennsylvania man was charged with obstructing an investigation into allegations that he was attempting to acquire the deadly toxin ricin.
Ishtiaq Ali Saaem, 37, was charged with one count of obstruction of justice Wednesday, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. If he is convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.
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Saaem, who holds a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering and worked as the director of advanced research at a biotechnology firm based in Massachusetts, allegedly ordered 100 packets of castor beans online. Each packet contains eight seeds, and ricin is a poison that can be extracted from the seeds of the castor oil plant.
He allegedly told law enforcement officers that he accidentally bought that many packets and that he intended to only purchase one of them.
He researched how to make tasteless poisons at home, according to the Justice Department.
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Then, in a subsequent meeting with law enforcement, he changed his story. Saaem stated he only planned to plant the beans for decoration, but he’s accused of purchasing them with the intent to extract ricin.