York County, nation getting hoax bomb threats demanding money

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

More than a dozen York County businesses, schools and organizations have been targeted with bomb-threat emails that try to extort money from recipients, according to police.

It appears the emails received in York County on Thursday, Dec. 13, are the same emails as those received Thursday by businesses, schools and other locations across the country, according to Northern York County Regional Deputy Police Chief David Lash.

"They are hoaxes," Lash said. He urged people and businesses not to pay extortion money. "They're all exactly the same threat, all sent by email."

Three such threats in Northern Regional Police territory have the same subject line as those received across the country, he said: "Think twice."

The emails seek extortion payments in bitcoin, according to Lash. That's a type of digital currency.

Instead of paying, recipients should call 911 right away so police officers can respond and gauge whether the threats are credible, Lash said. Officers can determine whether the business or organization should evacuate, he said.

High school threat: One of the threats was sent to Dover Area High School shortly before dismissal time, according to the deputy chief.

"Out of an abundance of caution, we brought the York County Sheriff's Office bomb dog to the high school," Lash said, but K-9 officer Dargo and his human handler found nothing.

Two businesses also were targeted, he said, in Manchester and Jackson townships.

"We checked each of the buildings, and no explosive devices were found," Lash said.

Lash said officers try to track down perpetrators where possible.

Dover Area High School sent an email to parents Thursday notifying them of "the national rash of threats that were received," including at the school.

York County spokesman Mark Walters said similar bomb-threat emails were sent to businesses and organizations in York City and in Springettsbury, Spring Garden and York townships.

Other local victims: Recipients included a senior-living facility and an entertainment venue, Walters said.

The Commonwealth Watch and Warning Center, which is part of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, sent out an alert about the nationwide threats to county officials about 2 p.m. Thursday, according to Walters.

He said the CWWC "continues to monitor these threats."

A Thursday-morning bomb threat at Eastern York Middle School is unrelated, he confirmed. In that case, a threat was found scrawled in a lavatory, he said.

The Associated Press reported that dozens of schools, universities and other organizations received the emails Thursday.

A courthouse near Atlanta was evacuated, and Penn State University notified students of the bomb threats via a campus alert, AP reported.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.