On February 14, 2008, Roger Bergendorff contacted medical authorities when he became very ill and experienced difficulty breathing. He was immediately transported to the hospital where, due to health issues, he was medically induced into a coma.
While conducting inventory at the motel where Bergendorff was staying, Extended Stay America personnel discovered firearms in his room and contacted the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Police searched the room and found anarchist literature, including the Anarchist Cookbook tabbed to the page “How to Prepare Ricin.”
After hearing about Bergendorff’s hospitalization, his cousin, Thomas Tholen, traveled from Utah to Las Vegas to collect Bergendorff’s belongings from the motel. Among the belongings, Tholen found white powder that he believed to be ricin.
FBI Las Vegas joined the investigation, and the powder was confirmed as ricin through laboratory analysis. FBI Salt Lake City executed a search warrant for Bergendorff’s three storage units that he owned in Utah. The search revealed castor beans, various chemicals used in the production of ricin, a respirator, filters, a painter’s mask, laboratory glassware, and syringes.
When interviewed, Tholen admitted he knew that Bergendorff was producing ricin while he temporarily resided at his home in Utah, but claimed that he was not involved in the any of the chemical production. Federal charges were filed, and both men were arrested.
The purchase of castor beans and ricin-related production items, such as glassware or filters, is not illegal. However, the production and possession of the toxin ricin is a felony. Bergendorff pled guilty to two felony charges for possession of a biological toxin and unregistered firearms on August 4, 2008.
On October 22, 2008, Tholen was sentenced to two years probation for violation of 18 USC §4, Misprision of a Felony, for not reporting his knowledge of Bergendorff’s previous production of ricin. On November 12, 2008, Bergendorff was sentenced to 42 months in prison with three years of supervised release and fined $7,500.