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FBI Finds Anthrax in Fla. Building

September 16, 2002

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BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) _ FBI investigators believe photocopy machines were the reason anthrax spores were spread throughout an office building where a tainted letter was mailed in last year’s attacks, according to a published report.

Federal investigators returned last month to the American Media Inc. building for 12 days, armed with new techniques for detecting large quantities of anthrax.

They found anthrax spores in all the copy machines in the three-story, 68,000 square foot building, an anonymous source familiar with the investigation told The Palm Beach Post for its Sunday editions.

Investigators believe the microscopic spores spread from the first-floor mail room where the letter was opened and onto reams of copy paper stored there, the source said; the spores then spread into the air by fans inside the machines loaded with the copy paper.

The building housed more than two dozen copy machines. The FBI’s theory helps explain for the first time the presence of anthrax throughout the building.

``Once it falls, it stays,″ Palm Beach County Health Department spokesman Tim O’Connor said. ``It was stuck to the keyboard in Stevens’ office. It stuck in the machinery that sorts the mail in post offices.″

The FBI’s search operation, the first of the supermarket tabloid’s publishing office, began Aug. 27 and ended Sept. 8.

Photo editor Robert Stevens died from anthrax in October. He was the first of five people to die nationwide in the anthrax attacks. Ernesto Blanco, who worked in the AMI mail room, was hospitalized with anthrax but survived.

The building was under continuous security since it was placed under federal quarantine Oct. 7.

The company, which publishes six supermarket tabloids, including The National Enquirer and Globe, moved its headquarters to rented offices nearby.

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