Utah woman arrested for buying 'weapon of mass destruction'

08/27/2020Law Enforcement, USA

Janie Lynn Ridd was formally charged with sexual assault of a dependent person and alleged biological agent possession. According to recent arrest records, Ridd has attempted to obtain Vancomycin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (VRSA), which can cause “illness from skin infections to serious infectious disease that can lead to pneumonia and/or septicemia or even death.”

Ridd had offered to buy Vancomycin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (VRSA) from a seller on an unidentified onion market in late 2019, according to prosecutors. Ridd told the vendor that she had been working as a biology instructor at a college preparatory school in Utah and wanted VRSA for an experiment on antibiotic resistance. The vendor — an undercover FBI agent who works in another state — told Ridd that she could easily procure VRSA from legal online sources. Ridd decided she wanted to buy VRSA from the vendor and paid the vendor $300 for an undisclosed amount of VRSA on 12 December 2019. She gave her home address to the salesperson.

Undercover law enforcement agents sent the shipment to Ridd ‘s mailbox on 17 December 2019. They watched the house until 18 December Ridd removed the package and took the package to her place of employment. Later , the police contacted her and called her in for questioning. Ridd first told police online that she had bought coffee from a seller. She later changed her story, saying the package was carried by a darkweb vendor with a biological agent. She had decided to use the agent to make beer in her house’s basement.

Ridd later told authorities she had requested the Darkweb “staph” to be used in an experiment that would help her understand the bacterial infection of her roommate.

Law enforcement then carried out a search at Ridd ‘s house. They heard Ridd had been staying with the son of a friend and her friend. The roommate told police she had made her relationship with Ridd aggressive. The animosity supposedly arose from a dispute over the roommate’s son’s custody. After one of the roommate’s hospitalizations, Ridd, who had been friends with the roommate for 25 years, won custody of the baby.

Investigators discovered that surgery by one of the roommates led to suspected infections. The infections had been caused by a bacterial injection into the wound according to the roommate’s surgeon. Investigators also discovered during the roommate’s health investigations that the roommate had been treated twice for dangerously high levels of blood sugar. The roommate had never used insulin or suffered from diabetes. But in 2019 Ridd had bought insulin from a darkweb seller.

Ridd pleaded guilty to the charges set out above on 25 August 2020. Prosecutors recommended court sentencing Ridd to jail for up to five years on the sexual neglect of a disabled adult shift and up to 15 years on the charge of biological agent.

Judge Kara Pettit ordered Ridd to serve a prison term of between one and fifteen years for attempted possession or use of a weapons of mass destruction, and up to five years for attempted aggravated abuse of a disabled person.