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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 4:14 p.m., Thursday, January 10, 2002

Woman faces federal charge in anthrax scare

By Ron Staton
Associated Press

A 23-year-old Honolulu woman was charged today with sending phony anthrax letters through the mail in what is the first anthrax hoax case to be prosecuted in Hawaii since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Sharon Cardenas made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court this afternoon on a charge of mailing threatening communications. She was ordered held pending a detention hearing early next week. U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo said he would ask that she be held without bail because he considers her a danger to the community.

If convicted, Cardenas could face a possible 20-year prison term and $250,000 fine.

An affidavit by U.S. Postal Inspector Byron Dare said Cardenas admitted sending three anthrax threat letters to Honolulu police on Nov. 30. The letters to Detective James Anderson at the main station on Beretania Street and to the Pearl City and Kalihi stations all contained a white powder, which was determined not to be anthrax.

The Pearl City and Kalihi stations were evacuated after the letters were received, according to the affidavit.

The letters were sent in the name of Caridad Berzamina, who is the mother of Cardenas' boyfriend, and demanded that Berzamina's police records be destroyed or all three stations would be bombed, the affidavit said.

"This was the result of a difference of opinion between family members," Kubo said.

Cardenas sent the letters in Berzamina's name because she was irritated at her and wanted to get her in trouble, the affidavit said.

The threatening letters stated that "This is not a joke," and Kubo said law enforcement authorities do not consider such threats a joke.

"We will aggressively prosecute these kind of cases," he said.

As of late December, 58 people around the country had been arrested and charged in similar cases since the anthrax scare began after Sept. 11.