White powder found at Chase banks in Valley, nationwide scare

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PHOENIX -- The U.S. Postal Service is offering a $100,000 reward for information about who is sending threatening letters to banks nationwide.

Valley police and fire departments responded to numerous haz-mat calls Wednesday after a white powdery substance was found at various Chase Bank locations.

Bank at 16th St and Buckeye evacuated

Shelly Jamison of the Phoenix Fire Department said a letter or package delivered to the Chase branch at 16th Street and Buckeye Road had some sort of white powder.

An employee was exposed to the substance.

Jamison said fire crews secured the scene, evacuated the bank, and decontaminated the employee with soap and water.

"We always treat something like this as if it is dangerous and take all precautions," Jamison said. "At this point I do not know what the powder is. It is being evaluated."

A hazardous materials team was on-scene and the Phoenix Police Department is investigating.

Additional Chase branches in Phoenix have also reported a white substance.

Those locations are 19th Avenue and Bethany Home Road, 16th Street near Camelback Road, and 29th and Peoria avenues in Phoenix.

Crews had to evacuate employees at the Chase bank on Shea Boulevard at 49th Street to the parking lot while haz mat crews went into the bank to check out the letter.

Fire crews at the Tatum Boulevard near Cactus Road location had to be hosed down after coming into contact with the white powder.

Crews also responded to the 7th Avenue and Thomas Road location for a call of the mysterious white powder.

Additonal calls were made to the Chase bank at Main Street and Greenfield Road in Mesa where haz-mat crews were on the scene.

Gilbert police were called to a Chase bank at Warner Road and Lindsay Road.

A number of angry letters with suspicious white powder have been sent to Chase banks all over the country over the past two days.

The following is a press release from the FBI regarding the investigation:

On Wednesday, October 22, 2008, United States Postal Inspection Service, FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, Phoenix Police Department, Department of Public Safety, Mesa Police Department, Gilbert Police Department, and Hazard Materials Response Teams from Phoenix, Mesa, and Glendale responded to nine Chase Banks involving a series of threat letters containing a powder substance.In addition, the Maricopa County Department of Public Health assisted in this matter.This multi-agency response was coordinated through the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center.

The powder substance was collected and sent to the Arizona Bio-Terrorism Laboratory at the Arizona Department of Health Services.Lab results were negative for hazardous materials.

The Arizona investigation is a part of a nationwide effort to identify the person or persons responsible for these letters being sent to financial institutions throughout the United States.Sending even a hoax letter is a serious crime.If you have information about any of these incidents, please contact the FBI at 1-800-CALLFBI or the United States Postal Inspection Service at 1-877-876-2455.