Man faces ricin charge after Las Vegas illness

LAS VEGAS — A man suspected to have been poisoned by ricin found later in his hotel room was indicted Tuesday on federal charges that include possession of a biological toxin.

Roger Bergendorff and his lawyer, Paul Riddle, did not appear when U.S. District Court Magistrate Peggy Leen unsealed the indictment and scheduled Bergendorff for an arraignment and plea May 2, federal prosecutor Gregory Damm said.

Damm declined to comment further.

Riddle said Bergendorff would plead not guilty.

Bergendorff, 57, also was charged with possession of unregistered firearms and possession of firearms not identified by serial number.

The charges against Bergendorff carry a possible penalty of 30 years in federal prison and a $750,000 fine.

The unemployed graphic designer was hospitalized Feb. 14 and spent several weeks in what authorities variously described as a coma and heavy sedation before he was released from a Las Vegas hospital April 16 into the arms of FBI agents.

Vials containing about 4 grams of "crude" powdered ricin were found in Bergendorff's extended-stay motel room several blocks off the Las Vegas Strip about two weeks after he was admitted to the hospital.

Ricin can be lethal in amounts the size of the head of a pin. It has no antidote, and no legal use other than cancer research.

Prosecutors allege Bergendorff first made ricin in the 1990s and possessed it while living in the San Diego, Reno and Salt Lake City areas before moving to Las Vegas.

Man faces ricin charge after Las Vegas illness 04/22/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 11:53am]

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