Police have finally captured a suspected serial prank caller who caused the evacuation of 3,200 tourists from the Statue of Liberty with a hoax bomb threat. The man now faces five years in prison for his long history of scares.
Jason Paul Smith, 42, identified himself as an “ISI” terrorist named “Abdul Yasin” in April 2014, and claimed he was going to bomb the Statue of Liberty using 9-11 emergency line services, according to police accusations.
Abdul Yasin is the name of a man suspected of bombing the World Trade Center in 1993, and ISI is believed to be “ISIS,” one name for the terrorist organization currently waging war in the Middle East.
The story gave him enough credibility to force a four-hour evacuation of 3,200 people from Liberty Island in the New York harbor. According to Reuters, it also prompted a massive bomb search involving canine units and other emergency teams.
The incident turned out to be a hoax.
On Wednesday, the authorities finally caught up with Smith, arresting him in Lubbock, Texas. They also confiscated the iPad the prankster used to make his fake calls.
They also found out the Statue of Liberty was not his first hoax, although it was his most successful. Authorities found two other 9-11 calls on the iPad — one threatening to kill police officers on the Brooklyn Bridge, and another warning that he planned to blow up a bridge in Time Square (a structure that doesn’t exist).
In late January of this year, he appeared to be at it again.
An email address associated with the suspect was used to make 18 different 9-11 calls over a three-day period.
Smith’s criminal record is also laced with similar hoax attempts. In 2001, Virginia’s Staunton Circuit Court convicted him of making written murder and assault threats, according to USA Today.
Likewise in 2006, another court convicted him of making hoax bomb and arson threats.
Still, there turns out to be one accurate part of the man’s ominous phone calls.
FBI special agent Alexander Hirst wrote in the New York criminal complaint that the prankster used a 9-11 service for the hearing impaired to leave his warning.
Investigators later determined that Smith is most likely deaf, based on Facebook information and his attendance in a school for the blind and deaf.
Jason Paul Smith is expected to make his first Texas court appearance late on Wednesday. If he’s convicted in the Statue of Liberty threat hoax, he could face a five-year prison sentence.
[Image Credit: Getty Images]