Man arrested in connection with airport bomb threats
(The Brownsville Herald) McALLEN — FBI agents found their man and closed their investigation Tuesday into a series of airport bomb threats.
Authorities arrested Juan Rodrigo Rodriguez, a 19-year-old U.S. citizen who lives in Reynosa, in connection with four bomb threats made at McAllen-Miller International Airport between Aug. 22 and Sept. 10. Rodriguez cooperated with investigators and even came to McAllen to surrender, said John Johnson, the top-ranking agent for the FBI in McAllen.
But at least one question remains.
“I have no idea why this individual would engage in this act,” Johnson said at a conference announcing the arrest.
Authorities say Rodriguez sent the threats to the airport’s Web site from a laptop computer at his parent’s home in Reynosa. His messages claimed he had planted explosives in incoming planes, the air traffic control tower and a car in the parking lot.
His messages described where he had purportedly put the explosives. Once, he told police to bring $20,000 to a hotel room at the Holiday Inn in McAllen, but FBI surveillance showed he never attempted to pick up the money, Johnson said. He also made no hateful comments or mentions of terrorism. And he lacked materials to actually build a bomb, authorities said.
Rodriguez is now in the custody of the U.S. Marshals, and likely will be arraigned on one count of intent to extort by transmitting a threat against someone else’s property via interstate or foreign commerce. The charge is a first-degree felony. Johnson said he expected Rodriguez to face only the one count, because the teen was cooperating with authorities.
FBI agents worked with McAllen police investigators and the Tamaulipas State Judicial Police in Mexico to solve the case.
McAllen police Chief Victor Rodriguez said authorities pursued the case aggressively because of the nature of the threats and their similarity to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
“Given this current environment that we live in, this is a very serious crime,” Rodriguez said.
The threats caused considerable inconvenience to air travelers.
On Aug. 22, two electronic messages told of explosives, one set in the terminal and another on an inbound flight. Officials evacuated the airport and all planes, displacing more than 300 people. The next threat came on Sept. 7, stating that a black BMW in the parking lot carried a bomb.
“There actually was a BMW in the parking lot and we almost blew the BMW up,” Johnson said. “It belonged to an innocent doctor.”
On Sept. 10, the final threat came via the Web, stating that the control tower had a load of explosives and that an inbound plane from Houston would soon explode.
Officials said they hoped the teen’s arrest and prosecution would dissuade others from sending similar threats.
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