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Bomb Threats at Hypertherm, WCAX, Area Businesses Deemed Part of National Hoax

  • LITTLETON, CO - DECEMBER 13: Jefferson County Sheriff Deputies Tim Williams, left, a school resource officer, and Jake McKeon, right, walk out of the front door of Columbine High School on December 13, 2018 in Littleton, Colorado. Three Jefferson county schools were put on lockout after a caller said he was outside the school with a rifle and that there were multiple explosive devices inside the school. Officials declared the threat was false and the area was cleared. Students will remain locked inside the schools until the end of the school day. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)

  • Deputies from the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office investigate a reported bomb threat at Eat Local in the 100 block of Jackson Industrial Drive, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018 in Scio Township. (Ben Allan Smith | MLive.com) Photos by Ben Allan Smith



Thursday, December 13, 2018

Email bomb threats targeting people, businesses and groups throughout the Twin States and across the country on Thursday, spurring building evacuations and police responses, ultimately were deemed not credible by law enforcement officials.

Entities in Vermont and New Hampshire that reported receiving threats included Hypertherm, the University of Vermont, WCAX-TV, the Burlington Police Department and many others. Multiple news reports across the U.S., including from WCAX, said the threats demanded payment via bitcoin. Emails sent to the Burlington station said a bomb would go off in its building if the company did not pay $20,000 in bitcoin by the end of the day, the news organization reported late Thursday afternoon.

Burlington police tweeted that “at this time, there is no reason to believe there are actual devices anywhere.”

Upper Valley businesses also reported receiving threats. Lebanon Police Chief Richard Mello said several reports began coming in early Thursday afternoon but led to no evacuations after the threats were deemed not credible. Hypertherm was among the businesses that received a threat and did not evacuate, according to Hanover Police Chief Charlie Dennis.

Adam Silverman, spokesperson for the Vermont State Police, said scammers targeted at least 15 locations in Vermont, including a bank, a business in Franklin County and a town office in the Northeast Kingdom. Private individuals also received threats.

“It’s the next evolution in the Nigerian prince scam,” Silverman said.

The Vermont State Police and area police departments have responded to the locations “by doing what is necessary to make sure no device is going off,” Silverman said.

Similar threats appeared to stretch from coast to coast, prompting investigations on colleges campuses in Washington state and Pennsylvania and spreading across cities such as New York, Washington, Chicago and San Francisco.

Police in New York said the threats they received were “sent electronically” to places across the city, and they linked those messages to the others reported nationwide.

“We are currently monitoring multiple bomb threats that have been sent electronically to various locations throughout the city,” the New York Police Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau said in a message posted on Twitter. “These threats are also being reported to other locations nationwide & are NOT considered credible at this time.”

Other law enforcement agencies and academic institutions echoed the message from the New York police. A spokesman for the Chicago police said that city had received threats similar to the others received but noted that there was “no elevated threat level” there.

As word of the threatening messages spread on Thursday, the FBI said in a statement that it was “aware of the recent bomb threats made in cities around the country, and we remain in touch with our law enforcement partners to provide assistance. As always, we encourage the public to remain vigilant and to promptly report suspicious activities which could represent a threat to public safety.”

The threats were part of an apparent national hoax that affected dozens of businesses, media companies and institutions, according to The Verge. The Cedar Rapids Police Department in Iowa, Oklahoma State Police, the New York Police Department and a subway station in Toronto have reported the scam. MSP Fusion, a business based in Boston, also received the threat, according to WCVB-TV. Institutions and companies in New Hampshire received more than 10 threats, said Silverman, the police spokesman.

“This is a drain on police resources across the country,” Silverman said.

On Thursday evening, Vermont State Police said they’d received reports of threats from four entities at UVM; Garvey Auto in Rutland; the Tarrant Foundation in Winooski; the Ski and Ride School at Sugarbush and West Hill Inn, both in Warren; Century Arms in Fairfax; the South Burlington Police Department; the Groton town hall; and individuals in Middlebury and Montpelier.

The threats on Thursday came less than two months after a Florida man was arrested and charged with mailing homemade package bombs to opponents of President Donald Trump. Threatening messages also have forced evacuations and spurred unease in communities across the country in recent years. Last year, a young man in Israel was arrested and charged with making threats to Jewish communities and institutions in the United States, all through phone calls and emails. In 2015, threatening emails later viewed as a hoax prompted the Los Angeles school system to shut down every school.

Material from VtDigger and The Washington Post was used in this report.