An Oakland Gardens teenager was arrested Wednesday, Oct. 12, and charged with making a terrorist threat and other crimes for allegedly orchestrating a phoned bomb threat to St. Francis Preparatory High School in Fresh Meadows on April 25, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.
The 16-year-old former student at the school was arraigned Wednesday night before Queens Criminal Court Judge Edwin Novillo on a complaint charging him with making a terrorist threat, reckless endangerment, falsely reporting an incident, endangering the welfare of a child, two counts of possession of air pistols and making a threat of mass harm.
According to the complaint, on the morning of April 25, at approximately 9:30 a.m., a phone call was placed to the NYPD Highway Patrol Unit 3 by a someone using the name “Jake.” The individual allegedly stated that he was a ninth-grader at St. Francis Prep and that he had planted four pipe bombs inside the school, located at 6100 Francis Lewis Blvd. The caller allegedly added that two of the bombs were placed inside a locker on the first floor of the school; one bomb was placed inside a male bathroom; and one more was placed inside a female bathroom.
Immediately following the call, approximately 2,000 students were evacuated from the school for an extended period of time while police searched the premises. No bombs or other harmful devices were found at the time.
An investigation launched by the NYPD Intelligence Bureau, in partnership with the DA’s Major Economic Crimes Bureau, led investigators to “Discord,” an online social media platform. Records obtained by the DA’s office pursuant to a court-authorized warrant revealed a conversation between the defendant and another Discord user known to law enforcement about making a false threat to St. Francis Prep in exchange for $80 as payment for the services.
According to the criminal complaint, as part of the conversation, the Discord user known to law enforcement asked the defendant if he would like the bomb squad called. The youngster responded saying: “Just a normal SWAT … as long as the school gets evacuated.” The known Discord user was later identified as a Polish national and Polish law enforcement authorities were notified of the incident.
Investigators were able to trace cryptocurrency that was used as payment to the Discord user in Poland. Additional Discord records were obtained which revealed the defendant identifying himself as another Discord user. Law enforcement officials were able to link the username to an IP address registered to an internet service provider at the home address of the defendant, with the account listed as the defendant’s mother.
Katz said St. Francis Prep records indicate that the defendant had been expelled from the school in February for disciplinary reasons. As part of the investigation, law enforcement officials recovered two air pistols from the defendant’s computer room.
“Bomb threats are never amusing, and they are never harmless. My office is fully committed to keeping our students safe and to fully investigate all possible threats of terrorism in this county,” Katz said. “As alleged, the defendant went to great lengths to orchestrate an elaborate and realistic threat against his former high school, placing thousands of students and their families in fear for their lives. This behavior will not stand, and the defendant has now been charged accordingly.”
Judge Novillo ordered the defendant to return to court on Oct. 17. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.
“The NYPD and our law enforcement partners take every threat to the safety and security of our city’s students and schools extremely seriously, and we will continue to vigorously investigate and hold fully responsible anyone who commits such an act,” NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said. “Bomb hoaxes cause fear, undue stress and a diversion of resources that have a very real impact on our communities. Anyone who intends to carry out a similar crime should know that NYPD detectives and our colleagues in the Queens district attorney’s office have zero tolerance for such conduct.”