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Man charged with extortion over threats to Midwest water supply

By Kevin Murphy

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - A Missouri man was charged on Friday with trying to extort $10,000 from the FBI by saying that he could help authorities investigate a threat to contaminate the public water supply of four Midwest cities.

Manuel Garcia, 69, of Kansas City, called police and federal agents to report that he knew of two men who intended to pour 55-gallon drums of unspecified contaminants into water systems in Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri, and Wichita and Topeka, Kansas, according to statement from the U.S. attorney's office in Kansas City.

Garcia said the two men, named Raul and Shariff, tested the plan on some horses and the animals went into convulsions and died, according to a federal affidavit. Garcia said that in exchange for $10,000 and a grant of immunity, he would try to locate the pair, the affidavit said.

"I want to assure the community that our water supply is safe," Tammy Dickinson, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri said in the news release. "We don't believe there was ever a credible threat to public health and safety."

A week ago, city officials in Wichita emailed employees to be alert to any suspicious activities involving the public water system. The FBI acknowledged investigating threats to water in four Midwest cities at that time.

An FBI agent who listened to Garcia's calls, recognized his voice, the affidavit said. Garcia is in federal custody pending a court hearing.

(Editing by Greg McCune and Leslie Gevirtz)

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