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Florida man threatened to poison J&J products unless it forked over cash

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Decades ago, Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) grappled with a public crisis when someone deliberately poisoned Tylenol and placed bottles back on store shelves. If an alleged extortionist had followed through last year, another round of J&J products could have suffered similar treatment.

J&J is far from the only drugmaker threatened with product tampering. In fact, GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) announced today that bottles of its alli over-the-counter weight-loss drug were tampered with, and warned consumers to look out for suspect packages. Consumers in 7 states reportedly bought the tampered-with packages. But the J&J case illustrates the security threats big-name drugmakers can face, even far away from their actual facilities.

As the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports, a South Florida man accused of planting pipe bombs at a Publix supermarket also allegedly threatened J&J. Calling himself "the angel of death," Brian Henderson used the company's website customer-contact form to send messages to its New Jersey headquarters last summer, federal prosecutors say.

The prosecutors say Henderson demanded money to guarantee that he wouldn't smuggle contaminated J&J products into 20 stores. They wouldn't say which products Henderson threatened to poison, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

Prosecutors also didn't say how much money Henderson demanded of J&J. He allegedly tried to extort $50 million from Publix. Neither J&J nor Publix actually forked over any cash.

Henderson pleaded not guilty to federal extortion charges. Previously, he pleaded not guilty to charges that he held up a Chase bank in Dania Beach, FL, while wearing a fake bomb around his neck. FBI Special Agent Brian LeBlanc said investigators spotted similarities between that fake bomb and the bomb planted at the Dania Beach Publix.

- read the Sun-Sentinel story
- see the GSK announcement

Special Report: The top 10 pharma companies by 2013 revenue - J&J

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