FBI: Powder near Super Bowl appears harmless

Bergen County Hazmat and emergency vehicles at the Bergen County Hazmat and emergency vehicles at the Renaissance Meadowlands Hotel on January 31, 2014. Photo Credit: News 12 New Jersey

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CARLSTADT, N.J. - Workers for at least five hotels near the Super Bowl site in New Jersey were shaken up Friday by letters they received that contained a yellowish-white powder -- a substance that turned out to be harmless.

An envelope containing a similar substance also arrived at former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's business in Manhattan, though police said preliminary tests showed it posed no threat.

The correspondence, which originated in Dallas and consisted of plain white envelopes with the addresses of the establishments typed onto labels, sparked panic. Local, state and federal authorities scrambled to defuse what could have been a case of terrorism just days before the Super Bowl.

In fact, one of the envelopes had a sheet of paper that said, "Alqaeda FBI (FBI working for International Alqaeda) Headquarter C Division in Dallas."

The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force and Hazardous Materials units said they "have responded to several locations that have received a suspicious letter and substance. There are no reported injuries at this time and the locations are being secured. This situation is being thoroughly investigated and more information will be provided when it becomes available."

Tom Martucci, general manager of Homewood Suites in East Rutherford, said the substance spilled all over him as he read a batch of incoming mail.

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"I just ripped the envelope open," he said. "It [the powder] fell down my shirt onto my belly and my leg. I was a little unnerved."

Martucci, like several other hotel employees who opened similar letters, called police, who contacted hazardous materials teams, state police and the FBI.

The hotel managers said authorities later told them the powder was baking soda.

The hotels became temporary biohazard sites: Workers like Martucci were ordered to wear masks, and the lobbies and offices containing the letters were blocked off until forensic analysts declared the threat was over.

Hackensack University Medical Center evaluated a number of people who had been exposed to the substance, but a hospital spokeswoman reported no illnesses or injuries, according to the AP.

At a Super Bowl event in Manhattan Giuliani confirmed, "I know it's been checked out and I know it's nontoxic."

In addition to the Homewood Suites in East Rutherford, the mailings were destined for an Econo Lodge in Carlstadt and a Renaissance Inn in Rutherford, police said. Investigators intercepted envelopes from a mail truck before they reached a Holiday Inn Express and Hampton Inn in Carlstadt.

With Matthew Chayes

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and Zachary R. Dowdy

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