A 29-year-old New Mexico man pled guilty to making bomb threats against targets in Delaware that resulted in large police presences being dispatched to those locations, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Monday.
According to officials, Stephen S. Landes, of Roswell, conducted what's called "swatting"--making hoax calls to elicit an armed police response to a given location--by making bomb threats to Walmart and Georgetown Elementary School, both in Georgetown, in May 2018.
“Bomb threats and swatting calls, especially to schools and highly trafficked retail stores, are designed to cause intense fear," said U.S. Attorney for the District of Delaware David C. Weiss. "They also necessitate an immediate response from law enforcement, diverting the limited resources of local law enforcement and emergency service agencies away from true emergencies where these agencies are critical to the health and safety of our communities. When these violent threats are directed towards an elementary school, they have a particularly lasting psychological impact on members of our community. My office will vigorously prosecute those who engage in bomb threats, swatting calls and other similar terroristic activity.
On May 9, 2018, Landes called the Walmart around 1:45 p.m. from his home state and told a manager he was a specific Georgetown individual claiming to have a bomb and a child in the bathroom. He demanded $20,000 and threatened to blow up the Walmart if he didn't have his demands met, officials said.
The store was evacuated with help from multiple agencies, but no bomb was found.
Roughly 15 minutes later, he made a similar call to Georgetown Elementary, claiming two children were buried in the basement and a bomb was in the school. A similar police response again turned up no threats.
Landes, scheduled to be sentenced November 27, 2019, faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.