A Long Island woman, who did not want her mother and brother to fly on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, called in a bomb threat to keep their flight grounded, the New York Post reported Tuesday.
Agents arrested Mary Purcell, 37, of Lake Ronkonkoma, after she admitted to placing phone calls to airport authorities in Tucson, Ariz., falsely reporting bomb threats against a Southwest jet scheduled to fly to Islip, N.Y., officials said.
Brooklyn federal prosecutors said Purcell placed the telephone calls on the morning of Sept. 10 informing the Arizona officials that she had overheard her boyfriend and his friends saying they were planning on carrying out a bombing on Southwest Flight 2475, according to court papers.
Purcell, who was calling anonymously, then warned the Tucson Airport Authority Police not to let the flight depart and informed them there was a bomb on the jet, prosecutors said.
Those phone calls prompted an emergency response at Tucson's airport, prosecutors say, with airport police and FBI agents scrambling to search for explosive devices. All of the luggage booked onto the flight was removed and authorities brought in the bomb squad and nine bomb-detector dogs to search for devices, officials said.
Passengers were screened twice before flight, hand luggage was tested for trace of explosive or chemical residue, and the entire Tucson airport was put on a heighten security alert, officials said. No explosives were found during the search.
"We felt that it was a credible threat," said John Ivanoff, chief of the Tuscon Airport Authority Police. "We were already at a heightened state of alert [because of the 9/11 anniversary terror threats], but more manpower was needed."
Police at the airport also interviewed passengers, including Purcell's mother and brother, Mary and William Meyer, who appeared to have no knowledge about the bomb threat.
The plane ended up departing about 10 minutes late.
Purcell told the FBI that "her story about the bomb was false, there was no plot against Flight 2475," according to court papers.
"And she had made up the story because she did not want her mother and brother flying around the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks," the papers said.
Purcell, who is on parole for a forgery conviction, appeared in federal court in Central Islip, Tuesday to face the charge of phoning in a bomb threat, a crime that could land her in prison for up to 10 years if she is convicted.
She was released on a $200,000 bond secured by the collateral of the Lake Ronkonkoma home, and both her mother and brother signed that bond.
Source: The New York Post