Man Accused of Sending Ricin-Laced Card to Romantic Rival

A suburban Philadelphia man was arrested on Wednesday after he allegedly sent a birthday card laced with ricin to the boyfriend of his ex-girlfriend.

Nicholas Todd Helman, 19, was arrested on Wednesday at his home on Byberry Street in Hatboro. It was the second time he had been arrested this month in connection to the ricin-laced card, according to investigators.

Back on March 7, Helman allegedly told his co-worker at a Target store in Warrington that he had sent a scratch-and-sniff birthday card laced with ricin to a man who was dating his ex-girlfriend.

Ricin is a poison found naturally in castor beans and can cause injury and even death if chewed, inhaled or swallowed. Helman allegedly told his co-worker that he rubbed ground castor beans onto the inside of the card before sending it to his intended victim's mailbox on Olive Street in Warminster.

Officials say Helman claimed the substance would kill anyone who came into contact with it within four days.

Helman's co-worker called police and Helman was taken into custody.

Helman allegedly told police he coated the card with sodium hydroxide in an attempt to scare his ex-girlfriend so that they could reconcile their relationship. Helman also allegedly sent threatening messages to his ex and her new boyfriend in November of last year, according to investigators.

Helman was charged with harassment and later released on bail.

Police say they warned the intended victim and his family not to open their mail. They then removed the envelope from the home.

Investigators later tested the substance on the card and determined that it was ricin.

A hazmat team, SWAT team, police officers and officials with the FBI returned to Helman's home on Wednesday. After a standoff that lasted several hours, Helman was led out of his apartment and to a police vehicle by officers clad in armor and hazmat gear.

He was arrested and charged with attempted murder.

Officials searched through Helman's home for any traces of the substance but determined that the scene was safe and clear.

A friend of Helman, who did not want to be identified, says he was shocked when he learned of the allegations against him.

"I really couldn't imagine him doing something like that," he said. "I've known him since Middle School. He was an odd kid. I would say he wasn't always the most social kid. He was very tech savvy. He was probably the smartest kid I've ever known but he never really applied himself."

With his second arrest in one month, the friend says he hopes Helman can turn his life around.

"I know you can come out of this," he said. "I know you can." 

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