New Mexico man sentenced in connection with bomb threats in Georgetown

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A New Mexico man has been sentenced to over two years in prison in connection with bomb threats made to Georgetown Elementary School and a local Walmart.

Stephen S. Landes, 29, of Roswell, New Mexico, was sentenced on November 27, 2019, to 27 months in prison by the Honorable Richard G. Andrews, United States District Judge for the District of Delaware. 

Landes pleaded guilty in August to one count of Interstate Threats Concerning the Use of an Explosive. 

According to court documents, on the afternoon of May 9, 2018, Landes called the Walmart in Georgetown, Delaware from Roswell, New Mexico, asked to speak with a manager.

During the call, Landes impersonated a resident of Georgetown and stated that he had a bomb and a child hostage in the bathroom. He then demanded $20,000 dollars and threatened to blow-up the Walmart if he did not receive the money.

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

A few minutes later, Landes called Georgetown Elementary School, claimed to be the same resident of Georgetown, 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 Departments responded to the elementary school immediately. K9 units searched the school but found no bomb or other threats.

Landes made the bomb threats 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 purported emergency.  

U.S. Attorney David Weiss stated, “This defendant purposely targeted an elementary school because he knew that  his bomb threat would cause an immediate and intense response by law enforcement.”

“Georgetown Elementary School shares a campus with the Georgetown Kindergarten Center and Georgetown Middle School. Approximately 2,000 children were impacted by the defendant’s unconscionable actions. Children in our community deserve to attend school free from the fear and confusion caused by threats of this kind,” Weiss continued. “Swatting calls also put law enforcement, the intended targets and innocent bystanders at unnecessary risk. My Office will prosecute those who engage in swatting activity to the fullest extent allowed by law and will seek sentences that reflect the seriousness of the offense.”

“Stephen Landes orchestrated an extensive, multi-faceted swatting campaign that caused a significant amount of angst, alarm, and unnecessary expenditure of limited law enforcement resources,” said Special Agent in Charge Jennifer C. Boone, FBI Baltimore Field Office. “FBI Baltimore, working jointly with the Delaware State Police, the Georgetown Police Department and the Delaware United States Attorney’s Office, hopes this sentence will deter others from engaging in similar criminal conduct.”

“The actions of Stephen Landes exposed our community and first responders to unnecessary danger.  I applaud the work of United States Attorney for the District of Delaware, Mr. Weiss, our F.B.I. partners and the Delaware State Police for their ongoing support and commitment to local law enforcement and the communities we serve,” stated Georgetown Police Chief R.L. Hughes.

This case was investigated by the FBI-Baltimore Division’s Wilmington Resident Office with assistance from the Delaware State Police and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Adrienne Dedjinou.

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