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Press Release

Manhattan U.S. Attorney, FBI Assistant Director, And NYPD Commissioner Announce Arrest Of Man For Hoax Threat To Blow Up The Statue Of Liberty

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York

            Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Diego Rodriguez, Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and William J. Bratton, the Commissioner of the Police Department for the City of New York (“NYPD”), announced that JASON PAUL SMITH was arrested today in Lubbock, Texas, for communicating a hoax threat to bomb the Statue of Liberty that precipitated the evacuation of more than 3,200 people from Liberty Island in New York Harbor.  SMITH is expected to be presented later today in federal court in the Northern District of Texas.

            As alleged in the criminal Complaint[1] unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:

            On April 24, 2015, SMITH initiated a call to the emergency 911 system (the “911 Call”) from his iPad using a service that assists hearing-impaired individuals with making and receiving telephone calls (the “Service”).  In the 911 Call, SMITH identified himself as “Abdul Yasin,” described himself as an “ISI terrorist,” and threatened that “we” are preparing to “blow up” the Statue of Liberty. 

            Law enforcement officers responded to the threat that SMITH conveyed in the 911 Call, and conducted a sweep of the areas in and around the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island with the aid of canine units trained to detect explosives.  Canine units alerted to the area of the visitor lockers at the base of the Statue of Liberty, prompting law enforcement officers and emergency responders to evacuate the more than 3,200 people who were on Liberty Island at the time.  Subsequently, the threat conveyed by SMITH was determined to be unfounded.

            The iPad registered in SMITH’s name has used the Service to make other 911 calls, including at least two calls in May 2015 from a user who identified himself as “Isis allah Bomb maker” and who threatened to attack Times Square and kill police officers at the Brooklyn Bridge.

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            SMITH, 42, of Harts, West Virginia, is charged with one count of conveying false and misleading information and hoaxes, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.  The maximum penalty is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant would be determined by the judge.         

            Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding efforts of the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force – which principally consists of agents from the FBI and detectives from the NYPD.  Mr. Bharara also thanked the United States Park Police for its assistance.

            The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorney David Zhou is in charge of the prosecution.

            The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the text of the Complaint and the description of the Complaint herein constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Updated August 19, 2015

Press Release Number: 15-216