WNY Native Has Ties to Federal Ricin Case

5:01 PM, Jul 4, 2013   |    comments
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EAST AURORA, NY - A Western New York native has been connected to the recent scare of ricin letters sent to various government officials, including President Obama.

The story starts with James Dutschke. The federal government is prosecuting him in Mississippi for allegedly sending ricin earlier this year to the president, U.S. Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi and a judge in Mississippi.

Ricin is a deadly poison that can be made using seeds from castor beans.

Ross Miller, 44, who's originally from Elma, sells castor beans online, which is perfectly legal.

"It irritates me that someone would take something that I was doing and use it for evil or something bad, it's just totally opposite of why I grow things for," Miller said.

Miller now lives in Tennessee with his wife, just outside Knoxville. They're experienced farmers and moved there four years ago from Western New York. They have many family traditions on the farm, through their harvesting. Miller grows plants and beans and sells them on EBay as a hobby.

Miller and his attorney Barry Covert say that Miller sold the castor beans to Dutschke last year, thinking it was just another sale.

"We were shocked and then, to hear the guy's name that we already knew on the news, we certainly didn't want our lives turned up-side-down," Miller said.

The ricin scare broke when an Elvis impersonator, Paul Kevin Curtis, who's from Mississippi, was wrongfully charged of the crimes and cleared of the accusations. Investigators then learned of Dutschke and charged him in April.

"That's when Ross Miller and his wife looked into their records, saw in fact that they had sold to a Dutchke, in the same region, same area that this Dutchke, who's now the new target," said Covert.

Since then, Miller says he's given receipts and postal confirmation slips to the FBI, helping them build their case against Dutschke.

"So this is very, very strong evidence that this Dutchke had lied previously to the FBI and had indeed purchased, had possessed castor beans," said Covert.

Miller says he's never spoken to or met Dutschke and that he feels good about going to federal authorities immediately about the sales. Miller says he'll stop selling the castor beans online and find another hobby.

"It's not worth it," he said.

Miller says that he thinks Dutschke bought the castor beans from him because Miller's prices were so low.

As for Dutschke, the Associated Press reports that his trial date has been set for July 29. Media reports say that Dutschke's attorney has requested that the trial be delayed. It's highly likely Miller will be a witness in the trial. Miller says he will testify if called upon.

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