A 50-year-old woman has been arrested for purchasing a biological weapon on the dark web, in a bid to get rid of her roommate. Janie Lynn Ridd of Utah allegedly was looking to purchase a biological weapon of mass destruction but settled for a bacteria which causes staph infections.
Ridd was charged on December 20, with a second-degree felony, aggravated abuse of a vulnerable adult, a third-degree felony an attempted possession of a biological agent and attempted aggravated abuse of a vulnerable adult in 3rd District Court.
According to charging documents, Ridd resorted to the dark web to purchase “Vancomycin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus” (VRSA), which is a strain of Staphylococcus bacteria. The bacteria can cause illness from skin infections to severe invasive disease which can result in death. VRSA is also resistant to Vancomycin, an intravenous antibiotic, used in treating a lot of bacterial infections.
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Ridd, purchased the biological weapon, for $300 worth of bitcoin on a dark web marketplace between October and December 2019. Court documents stated that, between that period, Ridd and a dark web vendor, exchanged several messages through an encrypted email service.
The Utah native posed as a biology teacher at a local college preparatory school and told the vendor that, she needed the biological weapon (VRSA) for a science project. Investigators, however, revealed that Ridd was an employee as an Indian Training and Education Center, which provides job assistance, offers supplemental income and resources and also serves as a preparation center for Native Americans and Pacific Islander descendants in West Valley City, Utah.
Charging documents also noted that, her employment at the training institute did not operate nor did she had any means to handle any biological substances.
Ridd’s intended target who was her roommate was a mother of one who was battling some health issues and was her caregiver. Court documents stated that Ridd and her roommate didn’t have the best of relationship and that led to Ridd filing for and receiving an ex-parte protective order and also gained temporary custody of her roommate’s son. The ex-parte protective order was however lifted three days later and with custody of the minor son, being returned to Ridd’s roommate.
The court also heard that Ridd’s roommate told the defendant that she was changing her will which will deny Ridd, her friend of 25 years, custody of her son, as they had originally agreed upon. Ridd stated that their relationship had been on the rocks for some time, as they showed hostile feelings to each other as well as some ‘mutually-claimed power issues’. The Salt Lake native added that she had a life insurance policy on herself and her sick roommate which made them the beneficiary for each other.
Ridd was arrested after the FBI and officers of the U.S Postal Inspection Service, intercepted the bacteria package and rather delivered a fake bacteria material to Ridd’s intended address for the package. Ridd was recorded picking up the package and taking it inside her apartment.
During interrogation, Ridd initially claimed that the biological weapon was just for beer production in her basement. Ridd later told FBI agents that, the package contained some form of Staph which was for experimental purposes. Investigators added that, Ridd did not have any evidence to show that, she lawfully had the authority to possess such substance.
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Her roommate told investigators that, she believed she was a victim of poisoning as she had experienced abnormal blood sugar levels. She also that she was not diabetic and did not take insulin. She then told investigators that, this happened after a conversation with Ridd, who told her that, the easiest and best way to kill someone and get away with it ‘would be to inject the person with insulin.’
The Utah Department of Public Safety after the arrest of Ridd released a public statement saying that “this was never a threat to the general public.” Prosecutors have however requested Ridd to be held on no bail.
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