Wednesday, April 2, 2008 | 5:04 p.m.
A Utah man whose cousin became ill in Las Vegas and slipped into a coma after possible exposure to the deadly toxin ricin was indicted today in Salt Lake City on a charge that he lied to authorities investigating the case.
A federal grand jury indictment accuses 54-year-old Thomas Tholen of knowing that a biological agent had been produced in violation of the law, failing to report the crime and making an "intruthful statement" to law enforcement to conceal the offense.
Tholen will be issued a summons to appear in federal court in Salt Lake City, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. The charge against him carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The FBI and local authorities searched Tholen's home in Riverton on March 2.
The search was triggered after Tholen's cousin, Roger Von Bergendorff, 57, entered a Las Vegas hospital in February and slipped into a coma. A white powder found in his Las Vegas hotel room and tested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was confirmed to be ricin, made from castor beans.
Von Bergendorff had lived in Tholen's home in the past and has regained consciousness. He has not been charged.