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“Inspired By Breaking Bad,” Boston Biotech Researcher Faces 20 Years For Poison Search

By Dhar Law, LLP

A Biotech researcher who bought the ingredients for various poisons and researched how to make poisons online could face up to 20 years in prison at sentencing on August 18th.

Ishtiaq Ali Saaem, 37, a former head of advanced research at a Boston-area biotechnology company, claimed he was inspired by the TV Show “Breaking Bad” when he tried to obtain ingredients for the deadly poison ricin. Saaem pleaded guilty at federal court in Boston to one count of obstruction of justice.

Saaem ordered 6 lily of the valley plants and 100 packets of castor beans, key ingredients for the poison ricin. He told law enforcement that he accidentally bought 100 packets instead of one and that the beans were for planting in his apartment and decoration. He also made misleading statements about his knowledge of ricin.

After Saaem was questioned, he made several searches for poisons and rat poisons and visited webpages titled,” What is the most lethal poison,” and “The Five Deadly Poisons that Can Be Cooked up in a Kitchen.”

Saaem has a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering and was the director of advanced research at a Massachusetts biotechnology firm.

Authorities have not indicated whether Saaem intended to use the poisons. When someone starts to conspire or begins planning to commit a crime, an attempted crime may be imputed. A criminal attempt can carry serious consequences. Whatever Saaem intended, he is facing federal charges for researching lethal substances and failing to cooperate with authorities when questioned.

If you have been questioned by federal authorities or charged with federal crimes in Boston, then don’t hesitate to contact Dhar Law LLP to get our experienced Boston federal defense lawyers on your side now at 617 880-6155.


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Heading up the firm, Vikas Dhar is widely recognized as a leader in the New England legal community. An accomplished business litigator and a “Top 40 Under 40” criminal defense attorney, he has also been honored as a New England Super Lawyer/Rising Star in the area of White-Collar Criminal Defense for each of the past six years by Boston Magazine.

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