EVERETT — An Everett man with a history of mental problems was charged Tuesday with a federal crime for allegedly mailing potential bombs to the White House, CIA, FBI headquarters and military installations in Virginia and Washington, D.C.
Thanh Cong Phan, 43, was arrested Monday and booked into the Snohomish County Jail. He made a first appearance in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Tuesday afternoon.
In all, 11 packages showed up Monday at government offices in and around the nation’s capital, leading to disruption and building evacuations. Each package contained what appeared to be a homemade explosive using a glass bottle filled with black powder, fixed with a fuse and a GPS device, FBI agent Donald J. Metcalf said in an affidavit filed in federal court.
Moreover, each package contained a typed letter “with ramblings about neuropsychology, mind control, and other subjects, including terrorism,” Metcalf wrote.
Phan was known to federal agents for having sent numerous similar messages to government officials, according to court papers.
“During the past three years, I am aware that Phan has sent hundreds of letters and/or emails to various government agencies containing similar incoherent ramblings” as those that showed up Monday, Metcalf wrote.
Postal inspectors used a tracking number on the package sent to FBI headquarters to determine that it was sent from a USPS kiosk in Mill Creek on March 16. A surveillance photograph of the transaction was compared to Phan’s state driver’s license.
Because of the many other messages sent over the years, federal agents knew where Phan lived, Metcalf wrote. At about 6 p.m. Monday, the man texted 911 “as he frequently would do,” Metcalf wrote. When sheriff’s deputies showed up, he initially didn’t answer, but eventually opened the door and was arrested.
On Tuesday afternoon, a Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy and a row of unmarked cars blocked off a short secluded stretch of 117th Street SE near Mariner High School, where Phan has owned a double-wide mobile home for more than a decade, according to county property records.
A pair of U.S. postal inspector police arrived in the neighborhood around 3:30 p.m. Meanwhile an FBI bomb technician rummaged in the trunk of an unmarked pickup, and a team of federal investigators huddled near the end of Phan’s driveway.
Phan now is charged with one count of shipment of explosive materials. If convicted of the felony, he could be sentenced to up to 10 years behind bars, the U.S. attorneys office said.
The federal charges are Phan’s latest brush with the law.
He has a 1990 conviction for second-degree assault as a juvenile, according to documents filed in Snohomish County Superior Court.
His felony history became an issue in 2011 when he was taken to a Snohomish County hospital after sheriff’s deputies were called about a man who appeared to be having mental health problems.
“The defendant made some bizarre statements to them, which gave the deputies concern about the defendant’s mental health and safety,” deputy prosecutor Chris Dickinson wrote at the time.
They decided to take him to the hospital for a mental health evaluation. Phan volunteered that there was a firearm in his backpack, and a check turned up a loaded .357-caliber handgun, court papers said.
He was charged with second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm. The charge was dismissed in April 2015 after Phan completed the requirements of the Therapeutic Alternatives to Prosecution program, which focuses on getting court-supervised help for people living with mental illness.
Meanwhile, Phan was arrested in California in 2011 after a chase on I-5, according to a story in the Daily Democrat newspaper in Woodland, California.
The California Highway Patrol said that Phan, then 37, stole a 2000 Isuzu Rodeo from a gas station in Redding.
At one point he allegedly said he had killed his brother. But Redding police were able to contact his brother, discovering that he was alive, the Daily Democrat reported at the time.
His prosecution on the Snohomish County charges was stayed while he was in California custody, court papers show.
Phan married in 2014 and is the father of a young girl. His mental health challenges in 2016 led his wife to petition for legal separation and ultimately a parenting plan that limits to supervised visits his access to their child.
CPS became involved with the family in August 2016 over concerns about Phan’s mental health, records show. In December of that year, his wife sought a protection order, reporting that he was “delusional and paranoid” and had been hospitalized for involuntary treatment for three weeks that fall.
“Upon release he was supposed to go to counseling and take his medication,” she wrote. “He his not taking his medication and is still delusional.”
Reporter Caleb Hutton contributed to this story.
Scott North: 425-339-3431; north@herald net.com. Twitter: @snorthnews.