New Mexico man pleads guilty to “swatting” bomb threats aimed at Georgetown Walmart, school

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Stephen S. Landes, 29, of Roswell, New Mexico, pled guilty to making interstate bomb threats in U.S. District Court, Wilmington.

In May 2018, Landes made bomb threats to Walmart and the Georgetown Elementary School, both in Georgetown for the purpose of “swatting” a Delaware resident.

“Swatting” involves making hoax emergency calls in order to elicit an armed police response (e.g., from a SWAT team) to harass someone believed to be at the location of the emergency. Landes’ sentencing is scheduled for November 27, 2019. Landes faces a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.

According to court documents and statements, on May 9, 2018, at 1:43 p.m., Landes called the Walmart from New Mexico. Landes asked to speak with a manager. Landes impersonated a resident of Georgetown and then stated that he had a bomb and a child hostage in the bathroom.

Landes demanded $20,000 and threatened to blow up the store if he did not receive the money.

Law enforcement from Georgetown Police, Delaware State Police and Delaware Natural Resources Police wentto the Walmart and evacuated the store. K9 units searched the Walmart but did not find any bomb.

A few minutes later, at approximately 1:56 p.m., Landes called Georgetown Elementary School. Landes again claimed to be a certain resident of Georgetown, Delaware and told the person who answered the phone that he had two children buried in his basement and that there was a bomb in the school. School administrators locked down the school and called 911. Law enforcement units from the Delaware State Police and the Georgetown Police Department responded to the elementary school immediately. K9 units searched the school but found no bomb.

This case was investigated by the FBI-Baltimore Division’s Wilmington Office with assistance from the Georgetown Police Department and the Delaware State Police.

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