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Ricin mystery man’s cousin accused of cover-up

/ Source: The Associated Press

A federal grand jury indicted on Wednesday the cousin of a man who was apparently poisoned by the deadly toxin ricin.

U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman said Tholen, indicted on a charge of misprision of felony, knew ricin had been illegally produced but did not report it to authorities and lied to cover up his concealment.

Tholen is cousins with Roger Bergendorff, who apparently was poisoned by ricin and suffered respiratory ailments. He regained consciousness March 12 after about a month in a Las Vegas hospital.

Tholen was collecting Bergendorff's belongings from the motel room on Feb. 28 when he gave a motel manager a plastic bag containing several vials of what turned out to be ricin powder. Police later found four “anarchists cookbooks” in the room marked at sections describing how to make ricin. Firearms also were found in the room.

Lethal in tiny amounts
Ricin can be lethal in amounts the size of the head of a pin. It has no antidote and is only legal for cancer research.

In court documents, police described the amount of ricin found in the vials as “a large quantity” and characterized the poison as a “biological weapon.” But officials have said they have not found evidence in the motel room or elsewhere of contamination and have downplayed the possibility that Bergendorff posed a threat.

Friends and family members described Bergendorff, an illustrator, as a loner who struggled to pay his bills while moving around California, Nevada and Utah with his beloved dog, Angel, and pet cats. He had lived in recent months at the Extended Stay America motel several blocks off the Las Vegas Strip while waiting for a freelance job contract.

Erich Bergendorff said his brother was deeply saddened by the death of their older brother in January, but insisted Roger Bergendorff had not been suicidal.

“He did say he felt very empty with his loss,” said Erich Bergendorff, who added that his brother was lonely in the hospital and newly distraught after learning that his dog was euthanized after the Humane Society found her starving and without water in his motel room.