Powder scare shuts Scientology centers in Tustin, Newport, elsewhere

TUSTIN – A series of letters containing a white, powdery substance were received Wednesday by at least nine Church of Scientology-affiliated buildings across Southern California, including buildings in Tustin and Newport Beach, authorities said.

Initial tests done by fire and police agencies found the substances to be harmless. The powder sent in the two envelopes to the Church of Scientology at the corner of Red Hill Avenue and Irvine Boulevard was cornstarch and wheat germ, said Lt. John Strain of the Tustin Police Department.An envelope full of powder was also sent to a Church of Scientology in Newport Beach

At least one of the envelopes sent to the Tustin building contained threats, demanding the Church of Scientology be dismantled, Strain said.

The FBI is investigating the synchronized threats, which were delivered by the U.S. Postal Service to at least nine locations across Southern California. Envelopes containing the white, powdery substance were discovered in five locations in Los Angeles, including Hollywood, the San Fernando Valley and northeast Los Angeles. Envelopes were also sent to Church of Scientology properties in Glendale and Santa Monica, in addition to the ones in Tustin and Newport Beach.

A secretary opening the mail at the Tustin church discovered the powder in two envelopes about 3:15 p.m., Strain said. The secretary told police she had also answered several annoying phone calls throughout the day before discovering the powder, Strain said.

The secretary and five other people nearby were quarantined for several hours while a hazardous-materials team from the Orange County Fire Authority investigated the powder. The Orange County Health Care Agency is testing the powder sent to the Newport location.

No arrests have been made.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday January 31, 2008.
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