Man Pleads Guilty to Sending IRS Agent Letter Containing Suspicious Powder

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A Santee, California man has pleaded guilty to twice sending threatening letters containing white powder to an IRS agent who was auditing him.

James Robert Harer, a self-employed contractor, was responsible for the evacuation of the federal building in downtown San Diego last summer after the second letter was sent to IRS agent Vickie Hom. The powder turned out to be laundry detergent in one case and roach killer in the other, the San Diego Union Tribune reported.

"Your lies have cost me," one letter said. "You lie so that you can receive your bonus money. Well, now it's my time to get even with you. You won't know when or where or even how, but I will get you and more. Our freedom's (sic) are stolen by you . . . and now it's time we take our rights back."

During a hearing Thursday, Harer told U.S. Magistrate Judge James F. Stiven that he mailed the letter to frighten Hom.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Parmley said the victim was traumatized by the threats, which occurred on June 3 and July 22, 2003.

"He sent a threatening letter and he put white powder in it, so his only intent was to intimidate, to threaten and to spread fear," Parmley said. "We have agents working around the clock to try to prevent terrorism, and what a phenomenal waste of time for them to have to spin their wheels chasing a hoax case."

Harer's attorney, Kerry Armstrong, said his client had been audited before and was distressed to learn he would have to face another audit.

"It was very hard for him to plead guilty," Armstrong said. "I hope (the judge) will give him the lightest sentence possible."

Harer faces a maximum sentence of 10 years and a $250,000 fine, but prosecutors will recommend a one-year sentence under terms of a plea agreement, Armstrong said. He said he will seek a work furlough program for Harer. Sentencing is set for Oct. 25.

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