February 21

‘Tech savvy’ Augusta teen to be charged over Skowhegan Walmart bomb threats

Skowhegan police chief said 14-year-old used technology to mask his cellphone in making calls, and DA office may charge him with a felony.

By Doug Harlow dharlow@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

SKOWHEGAN — A 14-year-old “very tech savvy” Augusta boy will be charged with making two telephoned bomb threats in less than a week to the Skowhegan Walmart, according to the Skowhegan police chief.

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THREAT: Skowhegan police and Maine State Police respond to the Walmart store in Skowhegan for a bomb threat report on Feb. 3. It was the second threat in less than a week at the company. Customers and employees were evacuated from building as police with dogs searched inside.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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TEMPORARILY CLOSED: Shoppers in vehicles are blocked by police cruisers from entering the Walmart parking lot in Skowhegan as police search the building after a reported bomb threat on Jan. 28.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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Police Chief Ted Blais said Thursday that the teen “was very tech savvy and had attempted to mask his cellphone by the use of an online service,” though he did not specify what service was used.

He said after the second threat, police had the telephone number used to call in the threats. They issued subpoenas to the phone’s network provider to track where the number came from.

Blais said the Somerset County district attorney’s office will review the case, which could lead to a class C felony charge of terrorizing or a lesser class D charge of causing a false public alarm. The boy’s name has not been released because of his age, Blais said. His name may be released later if a juvenile petition is filed in court for a felony charge.

District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said she will examine the police report; look at the boy’s criminal record, if he has one; and confer with juvenile corrections officials before she makes a decision on whether to charge him with a felony.

Either way, she said, the boy will not be bound over to face charges in adult court.

While police didn’t specify what the teen used to mask his number, cellphone apps that hide numbers are increasingly available.

For instance, an app called Mask My Number available through Google Play tells potential buyers “Mask My Number lets you hide your phone number when calling by sending any caller ID you want. We also allow you to mask your voice to sound like a man or a woman. Fake your caller ID with our app for endless fun.”

Another one for both iPhones and Androids available from iTunes App store and Google plan, Burner, makes its pitch: “Need a phone number for a day, a week, a month or longer? Create a Burner number on your iPhone or Android in less than 30 seconds. Keep the number as long as you’d like and burn it when you’re done.”

And one called SpoofCard urges callers to prank their friends and its website shows an example of “Barack Obama” calling “Mitt Romney.”

“They’ll never know it was you!” the website says.

Both Walmart bomb threats were called in at the same time — 2:05 p.m. Police said the caller sounded like a young man. Both times the caller said there was a bomb in one of the men’s rooms at the store.

The threats were called in to the store at Fairgrounds Market Place on Jan. 28 and Feb. 3. The store was evacuated both times and parking lot entrances were cordoned off with police cruisers, a firetruck and an ambulance. A Maine State Police trooper arrived each time with a bomb-sniffing dog and searched the outside and the inside of the building, but no bomb was found.

The store was closed for about 90 minutes each time.

Blais said Detective Josh King, of the Skowhegan Police Department, worked with the DA’s office to trace the cellphone number and find the caller’s identity.

Blais said Thursday that restitution will be sought for Walmart and the Skowhegan Fire Department response.

Walmart lost an estimated $38,000 in wages and sales, and the Fire Department response cost the town $2,600, Blais said.

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Additional Photos

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CRIME SCENE: A Maine state trooper and dog enter the front of the Walmart store in Skowhegan on Feb. 3, after a bomb threat was reported less than a week after a Jan. 28 threat was made. Employees and customers were not allowed in the store as police searched the building.

Staff photo by David Leaming


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