Boy, 15, Charged In Phone Threats To School

Internet Software Used In Calls, Howard Police Say

December 11, 2009|By Don Markus | Don Markus , don.markus@baltsun.com

Howard County police have arrested a Columbia teenager they say used Internet "spoofing" software to make telephone threats to his former high school and the Howard County Board of Education.

The 15-year-old boy, who is accused of making the calls on four occasions over the past three months, was arrested Monday and charged with making arson threats, telephone misuse, harassment, second-degree assault, making a false statement about a destructive device and disturbing school operations.

The youth, whose identity is being withheld because he is a minor, was released to his parents. Police said he had previously withdrawn from Oakland Mills High School, which was targeted by the calls. A Howard County schools spokeswoman said the boy left the school this year and is being home-schooled.

According to police, the threatening calls appeared to be coming from a Texas phone line. Spoofing software, which can be purchased over the Internet, provides a phony telephone number that hides where the call originates. Police wouldn't disclose the type of software used.

Police spokeswoman Elizabeth Schroen said this is the first case of "spoofing" involving a threat made to a Howard County school.

Investigators were able to trace the calls after police subpoenaed telephone records, police said.

According to police, on Sept. 10 the youth phoned the Board of Education on a three-way call with a female who posed as the grandmother of a student and said that student was carrying a gun in school. Police determined the information was not true. A call with similar information was made the next day, and again police determined it was a hoax.

On Dec. 1, police say, the suspects called Oakland Mills High School, saying that a different student was carrying a gun. The female, whose age and relationship to the youth was not disclosed, again identified herself as the student's grandmother, police say. Three days later, a bomb threat was called in, and a male caller also threatened to shoot the principal. The school resource officer talked with the callers and believed the threats were not credible, police said.

Charges against the female are anticipated "in the next week," Schroen said Thursday, adding, "We're taking this very seriously."

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