By John Diedrich

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

MILWAUKEE - As many as four Milwaukee-area financial firms have been the target of threatening letters sent by a person known as "The Bishop," and one of his letters was sent from a post office in Milwaukee, a postal investigator said Friday.

The suspect, who has signed some letters as "The Bishop," escalated his tactics on Jan. 26 when he sent explosive devices to companies in Denver and Kansas City, Mo. The devices were intentionally set to not detonate, said David Colen, acting assistant inspector of the Chicago division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Before those mailings, no one in law enforcement was aware of the full scope of the case, Colen said. The previous 15 letters, sent across the country, had been reviewed by law enforcement and private security firms, but not together.

The January mailings triggered a major federal investigation by the Postal Inspection Service, the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, he said. Milwaukee-based agents from those agencies are working on the case.

"Certainly anytime someone sends something potentially hazardous through our system, we are going to give that case extremely high priority," Colen said.

The investigation to date has included profiles of typical suspects of such crimes, forensic work, interviews and other moves, he said. Authorities also are releasing certain information from the letters that they think might lead them to the suspect. A $100,000 reward is being offered.

"We are holding several things close to the vest. What we are doing is looking to engage the public in locating this individual," Colen said.

In the letters, the Bishop demands that the individual recipient of the letter manipulate stocks to set the share price at $6.66, Colen said. Colen noted that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for financial managers to set any stock at a certain price. In the letters, the suspect used phrases such as "Life if full of choices," "Bang, you're dead," and "tic-tock."

The letters were received by at least three Milwaukee-area companies and investigators are trying to authenticate a fourth, Colen said. He declined to name them but said that, like other recipients, they conduct financial business.

The first letters were mailed in May 2005, he said, and the Milwaukee-area companies received letters in October 2005 and March 2006. In addition, the suspect mailed one letter with a Milwaukee postmark.

Roughly half of the Bishop's mailings were sent from Chicago or surrounding areas.

The two packages containing explosives were sent from the Rolling Meadows, Ill., post office shortly before noon Jan. 26, Colen said. Investigators have talked with several people who were in the post office at the time but are still looking for two people who were there. One of them is considered a "person of interest," but is not officially a suspect, he said.

"They were there at the time and have good information on the case," he said.

WARNING SIGNS: Postal officials cite these signs of a potentially dangerous letter or package:

Unfamiliar or suspicious return addresses (contact sender or police if unsure)

Extremely restricted endorsement that requires a certain person to open it

Excessive postage

Leaking or stained package

Exposed wires

Source: U.S. Postal Inspection Service

(c) 2007, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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