Texas woman accused of mailing bombs to Obama, Abbott

This undated photo provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety via the Houston Chronicle shows Julia Poff, a woman accused of mailing potentially deadly homemade bombs to then-President Barack Obama and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in 2016. (AP)
Updated 25 November 2017
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Texas woman accused of mailing bombs to Obama, Abbott

FORT WORTH, Texas: A woman accused of mailing potentially deadly homemade bombs to then-President Barack Obama and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in 2016 was arrested, in part, due to cat hair, a cigarette box and an almost-destroyed shipping label bearing her address.
Julia Poff, 46, mailed the devices in October 2016, along with a third package that she sent to the Social Security Administration, near Baltimore, according to an indictment. Of the three packages, only Abbott opened his. It did not detonate because “he did not open it as designed,” court documents said.
A grand jury indicted her this month on six counts, including mailing injurious articles and transporting explosives with the intent to kill and injure, according to documents filed this week in district court in Houston.
Federal investigators said the improvised explosive device sent to Abbott contained a cellphone, a cigarette packet and a salad dressing cap, according to a court document from a Nov. 17 detention hearing. It says a similar device was sent to Obama and that “the same” device was sent to the Social Security Administration.
The device sent to Abbott came in a package still bearing an “obliterated shipping label” addressed to Poff, the court document said. The cigarette box used in the device bore a Texas tobacco stamp that identifies the store where the cigarettes were bought. Poff’s bank card records showed a purchase of cigarettes at that store. The two incendiary powders in the box matched materials found in Poff’s home, federal court documents showed.
Investigators traced Poff to the package sent to Obama because of cat hair found under an address label, according to the detention hearing court document. An FBI crime lab compared the hair to some from two of Poff’s cats and found it “microscopically consistent” with the hair of one of those animals, according to the court filing.
At the hearing, a federal agent testified that Poff was angry with Abbott because she did not receive support from her ex-husband when Abbott served as Texas Attorney General, before he was elected governor in 2014. According to court documents, Poff’s application for social security benefits was denied.
The agent also testified that Poff said she just didn’t like Obama.
Katie Hill, a spokeswoman with the former president’s private office, declined to comment Friday. A call by The Associated Press to Abbott’s public affairs office in Austin was not returned.
Poff is being held at the Houston federal detention center. Poff’s attorney, Ashley Kaper, declined to comment except to say she had been unable to keep her client out of custody.
A criminal background check shows Poff has a misdemeanor conviction for theft. She was also convicted for state felony fraud. In both cases, she was given probation.
A pretrial conference in the case is scheduled for early next year.


Thailand immigrant crackdown eyes ‘dark-skinned people’

This photo taken on October 18, 2018 shows Thai immigration bureau chief and police Major General Surachate Hakparn speaking to foreigners held for investigation in Bangkok's Patpong district during a police operation called "X-Ray Outlaw Foreigner". (AFP)
Updated 21 October 2018
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Thailand immigrant crackdown eyes ‘dark-skinned people’

  • Thailand’s reputation as a place to disappear and reinvent yourself combined with lax visa rules can be a headache for law enforcement
  • Thailand is not a party to the UN convention recognizing refugees and made headlines in 2015 for deporting more than 100 Uighurs back to China

BANGKOK: Allegedly aimed at busting visa abusers and illegal migrants, a Thai police operation called “X-Ray Outlaw Foreigner” has raised questions about racial profiling and fears for asylum-seekers caught in its web.
Tens of millions of tourists come to Thailand each year for the cheap living and postcard-perfect beaches, with some seeking out the seedier thrills of a bustling sex industry.
But as weak law enforcement, porous borders and corruption help make the country a hub for transnational crime, Thai authorities are intensifying Operation X-Ray — a program that started about a year ago — with more than 1,000 people arrested in recent weeks, most for overstaying their visa.
Although the vast majority caught in the dragnet are migrants from nearby countries, the racial overtones of the campaign have sparked concerns about profiling based on skin color.
“Our job is to classify who are the good dark-skinned people and who are the ones likely to commit crimes,” said immigration bureau chief Surachate Hakparn.
He told AFP that the operation was aimed at weeding out visa overstayers and nabbing criminals — especially “romance scammers” who lure lonely locals online to defraud them of cash.
He insisted that the romance scammers are often Nigerian or Ugandan.

At the start of one night time operation witnessed by AFP in Bangkok’s rowdy Nana district earlier this month, about 75 Thai police officers stood in rows at a briefing.
“The suspicious targets are the dark-skinned people,” shouted an officer. “First, we search their bodies, then we search their passports.”
Soon they began stopping suspects, including three people from Mali who were tested for drugs on the spot.
By 11:55 pm, almost 30 individuals — about half of whom were black — had been rounded up.
Only one was Caucasian, a Frenchman caught smoking marijuana.
Surachate’s staff said details on the breakdown of nationalities was “confidential.”
But in the first two weeks of October, police arrested a Korean citizen wanted by Interpol for sexual assault, and busted a team of four Nigerians and 16 Thais allegedly involved in romance scams, according to authorities.
They also found a Laos national who had overstayed his visa by more than 11 years.

Thailand’s reputation as a place to disappear and reinvent yourself combined with lax visa rules can be a headache for law enforcement.
The junta that seized power in 2014 justified its power grab by promising stability amid street protests and political upheaval.
But rights groups warn that refugees and asylum seekers who transit through Bangkok en route to a third country for resettlement are also being ensnared in the latest police operation as they lack legal protections.
According to rough estimates from the non-profit Fortify Rights, there are about 100 adults and 30 children who fit this description, mainly from Pakistan but also from Syria and Somalia.
“Thailand’s immigration crackdown has swept up refugees and asylum seekers, sent young children into horrid, prison-like conditions, and appears to have clear aspects of racial profiling against South Asians and Africans,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
Thailand is not a party to the UN convention recognizing refugees and made headlines in 2015 for deporting more than 100 Uighurs back to China.
More than 70 Pakistani Christians were rounded up and detained this month by police under charges of illegal entry and overstay even though they were assumed to be in transit and escaping religious persecution in their Muslim-majority homeland.
But the authorities remain unapologetic.
According to immigration chief Surachate’s count, Thailand is home to more than 6,000 people who ought to have left the country already.
“In order to clean house, we need to bring in the good people and deport the bad people so that the country will have sustained stability,” he said.