As Smollett reported the attack to police, a multi-agency federal investigation into the source of the threat letter was entering its seventh day.
Headed by the FBI’s Chicago Field Office, the terroristic threat investigation is being assisted by one of America’s oldest and most underestimated law enforcement agencies: The United States Postal Inspection Service.
Whoever sent the letter to Smollett may have considered the mail to be an untraceable way to deliver a message. They’d be mistaken.
“Those postal guys are the real deal,” said a North Side cop who worked with inspectors on a serial package theft case in Lincoln Park last November. “They can do amazing things and aren’t afraid of the work.”
Since being created by Benjamin Franklin—yes, that Benjamin Franklin—the service has learned a few things about tracing mail-based crimes. Figuring out who mailed a letter has been made easier because, while most criminals know to wear gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints, most criminals also forget to leave their cellphones at home when they go to the mailbox.
Even without tracking phones, inspectors have a catalogue of techniques developed over the course of 200 years to track a letter to its source. More than 1,000 “white powder” cases were investigated between January 2007 and March 2009 alone, according the LA Times.
Meanwhile, the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service has been quietly working on the origins of Smollett’s letter for nearly a month. Giving it far more “attention” than he knew.
Late Monday, CWBChicago received confirmation that the letter case has been before a federal grand jury and multiple subpoenas have been generated over the course of the investigation.
In a conversation on Feb. 8th, before police met with brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo, a leading source within the Smollett attack investigation called the hate crime a "false flag" and said “There is a direct line between (the letter) and (the purported attack)." In the same conversation, the source hinted at what was to come: "This is not a whodunit. It's a how-many-people-dunit."
Whoever mailed the letter "made an enormous mistake," we were told. Federal charges were "certain."
A law firm partner who asked not to be identified by name spoke with us about the federal problems ahead for whoever mailed the letter: “If they have Smollett on the letter, he’ll be facing ’terroristic hoax’ charges, a felony. There may be federal obstruction charges as well.”
All in all, the federal legal options are numerous: “If they want to bury him, they can.”
Meanwhile, the Osundairo brothers are reportedly holed up in a Chicago hotel with police protection.