Toyota Scare Turns Out To Be Project Of Nigerian Inventor


Mailroom employees at the Toyota Manufacturing Plant in Putnam County first noticed the suspicious package on Monday.

It had no return address and a Nigerian postmark.

They contacted local police, and the package was put in a van in the middle of a field on the plant’s property in Bufallo, said Sgt. K.S. Dickson with the Winfield State Police detachment.

The suspicious package was one of four that were delivered over a three-day period to Toyota plants and a corporate office in Texas, Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia, said Mike Goss, spokesperson for Toyota.

Employees acted with caution, and police and bomb squads were called in for each package, which were revealed Wednesday to be test models for a turn signal invented by a Nigerian man.

“It was just this guy that thought that this was how you got something to Toyota’s research and develop office,” Dickson said.

State police and a  Charleston K9 unit and Explosive ordnance Disposal team responded to the call about the package, Dickson said.

A police dog alerted members of the bomb squad to possible explosive chemicals in the package, and bomb technicians X-rayed the package, he said.

Team members “disrupted” the package with a water cannon, a standard method to discern if there’s anything explosive inside, said Steve Viglianco, supervisor for the FBI’s joint terrorism task force in West Virginia.

There were no explosives in the box, just relay switches, wiring and film canisters, in addition to a letter from the Nigerian man claiming to be an engineer, Dickson said.

Dickson believes the dog reacted to the film in the canisters, which has some of the same chemicals found in certain explosives.

The first package was delivered on Friday to a Toyota corporate office building in Erlanger, Ky.

“We got a package that our mail room determined was suspicious,” said Goss, who works in the Erlanger building. “We called local authorities and evacuated the building here. Authorities investigated and determined it was non-threatening.”

Nearly identical packages arrived in Buffalo and at a Toyota plant in San Antonio, Texas, on Monday, he said.

On Tuesday, a Toyota employee in Indiana, sent a local post office to pick up mail, contacted police after discovering the package addressed to the plant in Princeton, Dickson said.

The post office was evacuated, until police determined the packaged was harmless, Goss said.

Viglianco said no one with the FBI had any plans to contact the Nigerian man.

“We’re not looking to charge him or anything,” Viglianco said. “It’s one of those unfortunate misunderstandings. We respond to suspicious activity all the time. in the current climate, its an ongoing dynamic nationwide.”

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