Teen behind JCC threats suspected of making bomb hoax calls from prison

The two calls were traced back to the teenager who is currently awaiting trial at the Nitzan prison in the central Israel town of Ramle.

JCC bomb threats suspect (photo credit: REUTERS)
JCC bomb threats suspect
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A 19-year-old Israeli-American teenager awaiting trial on charges relating to more than 2,000 bomb and other threats against Jewish communities, airports and police stations in the United States and other countries is suspected of making a further 100 threatening calls from inside an Israeli prison.
The teenager, a resident of Ashkelon, was arrested Monday after two calls were made to the Israeli police on Sunday warning of suspicious items at schools in Tel Aviv and the nearby town of Kfar Saba.
The two calls were traced back to the teenager who is currently awaiting trial at the Nitzan prison in the central Israel town of Ramle.
The name of the suspect remains under gag order as he was a minor when the majority of the alleged crimes were committed. The police investigation into the latest series of calls is still ongoing.
The teenager was first arrested in March 2017 after a lengthy investigation carried out by Israel Police, in coordination with the FBI and other international law enforcement agencies.
He was indicted in April 2017 for a range of offenses over a two-year period, including extortion through threats, publicizing fake news that caused fear and confusion, cyber crimes and money laundering. He was also charged with illegal possession of a weapon, attacking a police officer, selling drugs, possessing pedophile-type materials and other crimes.
His defense lawyer in Israel has stated that the defendant has a high IQ but has an inoperable benign brain tumor and severe behavioral issues.
The waves of threats against Jewish groups forced widespread evacuations and prompted concern among Jewish leaders about a resurgence of antisemitism. Many Jewish community centers took steps to heighten security in response.
Indictments against the teenager were also filed last year in Florida and Georgia relating to hundreds of threatening telephone calls and hoax threats. The suspect is also accused of making threatening calls to locations in Australia, New Zealand and several European countries.
The Justice Ministry said the defendant also used the so-called “Dark Net” to sell his cyber intimidation and extortion services to clients who paid him electronic currency according to a price list he posted with set fees for calls to police stations, schools or airports.
He was also accused of using the undetectable network to deal in illegal drugs and sell computer kits to counterfeit official documents, manufacture poisons and explosives and to hack into social media accounts.
The teenager earned roughly $225,000 in bitcoin currency, and at one point he employed two other individuals to operate as subcontractors, carrying out his tasks.
The family of the Ashkelon teenager has tried to defend his actions by citing physical and mental incompetence due to illness.
Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.