By Manuel Ocaño
Federal and local law enforcement agencies are looking into no less than 50 bomb threats received across San Diego. The menacing messages were received by a variety of businesses, as well as a handful of private residences.
The perpetrators sent emails demanding a $20,000 ransom be paid in Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency that can be transferred between users without the involvement of a banking institution.
The threats stated that if the recipients of the e-mails failed to transfer the money within a certain deadline, explosives would be detonated at their location. The potential victims all reported the threats to 9-1-1.
The situation was addressed jointly by local and federal agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF).
Sheriff and police departments coordinated with the federal agencies to fully investigate each of the threats. A Sheriff’s Department stated shortly after noon that they had already cleared 30 bogus bomb threats.
The Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside was on the verge of ordering a full precautionary evacuation; however, a police sweep of the facilities with bomb-sniffing dogs was able to determine that there were no explosives prior to the deadline set by the perpetrators.
The San Diego Police Department said 15 other cases had been cleared with bomb-sniffing dogs and equipment.
By mid-afternoon, several responses were still going on throughout San Diego County, including the cities of El Cajon, Oceanside, San Marcos, Vista, Ramona, National City and Escondido, although the number of threats in each city had not been reported at that time.
In adherence to their safety protocol, law enforcement responded to all calls reporting threatened or potential explosives. The Escondido Police Department stated that they “take all potential bomb threats very seriously until it is determined whether they are real.”
The FBI and ATF also reported that the bomb threats were not unique to San Diego County, but rather part of a nationwide wave, with bogus emails received in dozens of cities throughout the country at a variety of venues, including court buildings, universities and other educational institutions, shopping centers, and media companies, among others.
New York was one of the cities with the largest number of bomb threats during the wave this part Thursday.
Closer to home, several San Bernardino businesses were evacuated as a result of the threats.
At the end of the day, none of the threats turned out to be credible. No arrests have been made so far in connection to the threats.
The incident follows a similar nationwide wave of bomb threats made last year, when it was also determined that they were bogus attempts at collecting a ransom.