Cat hair leads to identity of woman who allegedly mailed explosive devices to President Obama, Texas Gov. Abbott
HOUSTON — A Houston area woman who was angry with the government mailed explosive devices to Texas Governor Greg Abbott, former President Barack Obama and the Social Security Administration in Maryland, according to documents from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
Abbott opened the dangerous package himself, but it failed to detonate, and cat hair helped track the woman down.
Julia Poff, 46, is charged with a number of offenses, including transportation of explosives with the intent to kill and injure, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) fraud, false declaration in bankruptcy, and injurious articles as nonmailable.
Investigators said Poff was upset with Abbott, the previous Texas Attorney General, because she had not received child support from her ex-husband.
According to an affidavit, Poff mailed a “victim-activated improvised explosive device” to the governor’s mansion in Oct. 2016. The governor opened the package, but it did not detonate because he did not open it the way it was designed to be. Had the device worked properly, the governor would have suffered severe burns, and possibly death.
Investigators tracked the package to Poff. It had an obliterated shipping label that was addressed to the woman from a previous eBay order sent to Sealy, Texas.
Investigators went to her home and found numerous items used in making the intended explosive devices, including a large number of fireworks in her garage.
A Ken’s salad dressing cap was used as a component of the device sent to Abbott. Witnesses said Poff had purchased that brand of salad dressing for her anniversary dinner.
Tobacco products were also used to make explosive devices. Packaging for Pall Mall red cigarettes contained black powder and pyrotechnic powder, both of which were found at Poff’s home. A fuse led into the pack, and a Texas tobacco stamp was on the cigarettes. It showed the items were purchased at a Flying J Truck Stop near Brookshire, Texas. Poff’s debit card was used at the store to purchase cokes and cigarettes, matching the substances in the package.
Abott was not the only government official targeted by Poff. Investigators said she sent a similar victim-activated improvised explosive agent to President Barack Obama, but it was detected in screening.
An agent testified that a cellphone, which was traced back to Poff, was in the package and cat hair was found under the address label. The hair was compared to two of Poff’s cats by the FBI crime lab and the hair was microscopically consistent with the hair of one of them.
As for the reason the package was sent to the former president….
Poff told investigators that she simply did not like Obama.
Investigators said that Poff also sent a device to the Social Security Administration in Maryland because she had applied for benefits, but was denied.
Investigators said Poff was in trouble for filing applications for SNAP with false information. In addition, she made fraudulent filings in bankruptcy proceedings and failed to report income.
Poff is accused of trying to interfere with the investigation against her.
Investigators said she tried to learn the identity of witnesses talking to the FBI and grand jury, and asked her friends not to speak to FBI agents.
Agents contacted Poff’s employer at a law firm who informed them that Poff was fired because she allegedly stole money from a client.
Poff also set up a fund following Hurricane Harvey seeking assistance for a widowed father and young child. She solicited donations of money and clothing, and gave the clothing to the father, but kept the money for herself.
Poff was said to be so abusive to bankruptcy court staff during her hearings that security had to be enhanced when she appeared in court.
Poff has been unable to maintain a long-term place to stay.
She has been evicted seven times for non-payment of rent and left many of the premises in disrepair. She has poured concrete down the drains, stuffed potatoes in toilets and would lock dogs in the dwellings for weeks, allowing them to defecate and urinate on the property, according to court documents.
For her criminal history, Poff has a misdemeanor theft conviction, for which she was sentenced to deferred adjudication, but that was later revoked.
She was also convicted of state felony fraud and was sentenced to deferred adjudication for that offense as well.
After a yearlong investigation, Poff was taken into custody in regard to the explosive devices.
On Nov. 16, Poff pleaded not guilty. Her trial is set to begin in January 2018.