Lake in the Hills man pleads guilty in puffer fish toxin case
A Lake in the Hills man pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges that he acquired lethal puffer fish toxin in what authorities said was a scheme to kill his wife.
Edward Bachner, 38, of the 5700 block of McKenzie Drive, also pleaded guilty to wire fraud related to purchasing a $20 million life insurance policy on his wife, Rebecca, and to filing a fraudulent $111,000 federal tax return for 2005.
He was accused of using the alias of Edmond Backer for the phony business of EB Strategic Research in an attempt to buy tetrodotoxin (which is derived from the puffer fish), which causes respiratory paralysis within six to 24 hours. There is no known antidote.
U.S. District Court Judge Frederick Kapala set a sentencing hearing for Dec. 8. Bachner has been held in lieu of bail since the FBI antiterrorism task force raided his home and arrested him in June 2008.
The maximum penalty for acquiring tetrodotoxin with the purpose of using it as a weapon is life in prison, Judge Kapala said. The charge also carries a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the amount gained or lost from the crime, whichever is greater, he said.
The wire fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years, and the fraudulent tax return charge carries a maximum penalty of five years, he said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Karner said all other charges in the 16-count indictment will be dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
After the hearing ended, Bachner turned and smiled to relatives in the audience. Outside the courtroom, defense attorney Michael Gillespie said Bachner's wife, as well as parents, his brother and his sister, were in the audience. "They were there in support," he said. All declined to comment.
Bachner was arrested in June 2008 after he arrived at a UPS store in Algonquin to pick up vials of tetrodotoxin, which authorities say he ordered from the East Coast under the guise of a research doctor. Neighbors said he and his wife lived in the Meadowbrook subdivision since 2002.
The search of Bachner's home in the summer of 2008 uncovered 45 full or partially full vials of the poison, along with evidence he had obtained at least 19 more vials that were missing.
Agents also found a handgun, more than 50 knives, five garrotes, a phony CIA badge, and books on how to poison people, make gun silencers and hand-to-hand combat, federal prosecutors have said.