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Letter to Gov. Whitmer threatened state employees would die unless she paid $2M in Bitcoin

Posted at 10:14 PM, Jan 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-10 10:05:34-05

LANSING, Mich (WXYZ) — In the midst of a riot in the nation’s capital where a group of President Trump' supporters forced their way inside the Capitol Building, and on the heels of a bomb threat made to the Michigan State House in Lansing, The 7 investigators have learned Michigan State Police investigated yet another threat, that was sent straight to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The threat was an extortion scheme from Indiana that was mailed to the Governor. The anonymous sender allegedly said state employees would die unless the governor handed over $2 million in Bitcoin by Jan 25.

"I think we can safely say that the State Police are aggressively pursuing this investigation,” said retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent Andy Bartnowak. "They’re gonna exhaust all investigative leads until they make a determination that either A, there's nothing else to pursue or B, they've identified an individual or group of individuals possibly.”

A spokeswoman for the Michigan State Police says, "The MSP takes very seriously any threats made against elected officials or others. Upon being notified of this letter by the Executive Office, we looked into it. Part of that review included consulting with the Michigan Intelligence Operations Center. Ultimately, it was determined not to be a credible threat."

“This type of communication that was sent, physically through the United States Post Office mail system, would be certainly a little bit harder," Bartnowak said, comparing to an emailed threat. "But there’s still things they can do.”

Bartnowak says investigators can forensically examine the letter, but it’s still tough to trace. He’s confident a threat of this magnitude isn’t taken likely, especially in light of a thwarted kidnapping plot against the Governor just months earlier.

"There’s other things that could be going on in the background that we’re just not aware of," Bartnowak said. "They may have sources that have provided information, someone may have called in.”

The threat asked for the money in Bitcoin, a payment method often seen in cyber hacks.

“It’s cryptocurrency, its a digital transaction," Bartnowak said. "It's not impossible but it’s certainly very very difficult to trace those transactions.”

Bartnowak, who previously once ran an FBI hostage negotiation team, says paying up would likely never happen.

"Generally we don’t because it sets a bad precedent,” Bartnowak said.

The safety of our nation's capital and our state capital are continuously under attack, leading Bartnowak to believe the political climate and the pandemic are creating an environment for these political threats.

“I think people are a little more emboldened now, so I would bet the threats are increased,” Bartnowak said.

We have reached out to Whitmer's office multiple times, but have not received a response.

On Monday, the Capitol Commission is holding a special meeting, and on the agenda is a ban on open carry at the State Capitol.