Natale gets a year and a day in prison in white powder scare

By Peter H. Milliken


A federal judge has sentenced former Warren Auditor Anthony J. Natale to one year and one day in prison for mailing white powder to his former employer.

The powder caused a panic, but it was found to be harmless.

Natale drew the sentence Thursday from U.S. District Court Judge Benita Y. Pearson after he had pleaded guilty to the felony charge of conveying false information related to use of a weapon of mass destruction when he appeared before her in June.

As requested by Justin Seabury Gould, the assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting the case, Judge Pearson ordered Natale taken into federal custody to begin serving his prison term immediately, instead of self-reporting to prison at a later date.

She imposed no fine but ordered that the $10,000 restitution payment Natale brought to his sentencing be applied first to the $9,834 in restitution he must make to the former employer.

The judge also imposed a civil judgment of $14,362 to be divided among various emergency responders, including the Boardman police and fire departments, the Mahoning County Haz-Mat Team and the Ohio Department of Health laboratory, where the powder was tested.

Natale, 38, of Genessee Avenue Northeast, who had no prior criminal record, will be on three years of supervised release after prison.

Natale admitted mailing an envelope containing starch to his former employer, American Business Center, 7677 South Ave., Boardman, on Nov. 10, 2014, after being fired from his job as a sales representative there.

The powder fell out of the envelope onto an employee, causing panic that the powder might be a toxin, such as anthrax.

The incident led to an evacuation; a police, fire and Haz-Mat response; the disrobing, decontamination and medical evaluation of two employees; and a two-day closure of the copying machine sales and service business.

The maximum penalty Natale could have faced was five years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.

Natale’s lawyer, Desirae DiPiero, argued for probation, saying incarceration would aggravate Natale’s psychological and emotional problems.

Natale has accepted responsibility for his crime and is genuinely remorseful, she said.

“It was a spontaneous act without deliberation,” DiPiero said.

“I am extremely ashamed to be here,” a tearful Natale told the judge in a distressed voice.

His recent job and income loss brought inability to pay his bills, Natale told the judge. “I had never been that depressed,” he added.

“It was the worst decision of my life,” Natale said of his choice to mail the starch to his former employer.

Despite his mental illness, Gould and the judge said they did not believe Natale had diminished mental capacity.

“You did something pretty awful and regrettable,” the judge told Natale. “I cannot legitimately justify a departure downwards” from the 12-to-18-month guideline sentencing range for a prison term for Natale’s crime and circumstances, Judge Pearson said.

Despite having the benefit of prior counseling and participation in an anger- management program, Natale chose to mail the powder and understood the consequences of his doing so, Gould said.

DiPiero asked that Natale be placed in the federal prison in Morgantown, W.Va.

Judge Pearson said she’d make that request, but Natale’s placement will be up to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Nobody from American Business Center appeared in court to make a victim impact statement.

Upon entering his guilty plea, Natale resigned as Warren auditor; and the city’s Democratic Party Central Committee members selected Vince Flask, 5th Ward councilman, to replace him.