Briefcase in court bomb scare stolen from IRS agent

September 28, 1996|By Scott Higham | Scott Higham,SUN STAFF

Federal agents said yesterday they have solved the mystery of the suspicious briefcase that prompted the evacuation of the U.S. District Courthouse in Baltimore Thursday afternoon.

The briefcase was stolen from an IRS agent. Its contents -- a plastic device, a wire and vials -- are used to test diesel fuel to make sure truckers have paid highway excise taxes.

The mystery began Thursday, when someone spotted the briefcase on a bench of the courthouse plaza along Lombard Street. Security officers reviewed videotape of the plaza, which showed a man placing the briefcase on the bench, opening it and closing it quickly before running off.

Baltimore bomb squad officers X-rayed the briefcase. Agents evacuated the courthouse and cordoned off the streets surrounding the building. The bomb squad blew up the briefcase at 3: 40 p.m.

Yesterday, federal agents said they had figured out what had happened. The man in the videotape apparently broke into an IRS truck parked in a garage next to the Days Inn near the courthouse and the Fallon Federal Building.

An IRS agent assigned to the so-called diesel compliance squad left the testing kit in the truck and walked to the Fallon Building, where the IRS has offices. The kit is used to test dyes in diesel fuel, allowing IRS agents to determine whether highway taxes have been paid on the fuel.

Federal agents say they have two theories about why the man ran away so fast: He may have realized he couldn't make any money from what he found in the briefcase, or he took one look, thought he had stolen a bomb and sped off as quickly as he could.

Pub Date: 9/28/96

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