Sources: White powder envelopes came from county jail

PORTLAND, Ore. - Letters mailed to six Portland buildings had return addresses indicating they came from the Multnomah County Jail, according to multiple sources.

The sources spoke to KATU on the condition their names would not be used.

At least two of the envelopes containing white powder also had the word "anthrax" written on them and if the return address is accurate, it raises questions about how something like that could make it out of the jail undetected multiple times.

Jail insiders told us the incoming mail is checked but with 1,300 inmates, it would be impossible to inspect all correspondence that leaves the facility. We learned that almost none of the outgoing mail is inspected and it's only checked if investigators are keeping an eye on someone's activities.

We spoke with both the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office, which runs the jail, and the FBI, which is heading up the investigation. Neither would comment on the information we uncovered.

However, we did find out that federal investigators are looking into at least one inmate at the jail. The key person that they are looking at for sending the letters is a federal inmate who is being held at the jail. People who work at the jail say he was picked up by the U.S. Marshals on Tuesday. We learned that he is now being held at the federal corrections institution in Sheridan.

This new information might help explain the FBI's announcement last week that they had stopped the person or people responsible for sending the envelopes. They still have not said whether anyone has been charged or arrested.

The jail is located in downtown Portland and sits right next to the federal courthouse, which was the first of six locations to receive one of the envelopes.

Whoever sent the letters started doing it three weeks ago. They sent them to the federal courthouse, the Lloyd Center mall, a business office at the airport, a business office at the downtown Hilton, the Marquam Building that houses OHSU offices and the Market Center Building that houses some offices for Portland State University.

Grant Coffey, Portland Fire & Rescue's HAZMAT coordinator, said he can't comment about the investigation or who may be responsible. Still, he said he has tabulated the costs associated with responding to the incidents and estimates it at around $14,000.

Coffey said tests proved that none of the white powder was toxic but he said there may be long-term psychological impacts for the people who opened the letters and thought, even momentarily, that they had been exposed to anthrax.