Police, FBI investigating bomb threats in Chicago area, nationwide

CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) - Police were responding to a series of bomb threats Thursday afternoon in the Chicago area.

Suburban authorities said the threats were likely part of a larger extortion scam that’s been reported in the area and across the country. A Chicago police spokeswoman said the threats targeting four buildings in the city were still being investigated.

At 12:16 p.m., the first threats were lodged against buildings in the 200 block of West Madison in the Loop and the 3900 block of North Damen in the North Center neighborhood, police said. People from both buildings received an emailed ransom note threatening a bombing and demanding $20,000 in bitcoin.

About 15 minutes later, an employee at a building in the 300 block of South Wacker in the Loop received another bomb threat in an email, police said. A University of Illinois police officer then received an email about 1 p.m. threatening a bombing at a building in the 1200 block of West Harrison in the University Village neighborhood.

Anthony Guglielmi, a CPD spokesman, said the threats appear to be “part of a similar pattern being made nationwide.”

Around the same time, various buildings were targeted in Aurora, Ferrelli said.

Between 12:40 p.m. and 1:15 p.m., threats were made against the Aurora City Hall at 44 E. Downer Place, EarthMover Credit Union at 1735 block of N. Farnsworth Ave. and Rush Copley Medical Center at 2000 Ogden Ave.

Ferrelli said the threats were likely part of a coordinated extortion plot, noting that all the emailed threats demanded money to be paid in bitcoin. No bombs were found at any of the targeted facilities, and no injuries were reported, Ferrelli said.

“We believe these to be part of a regional series of bomb threats that appear to be part of a phishing scam,” he said.

In a tweet, Rush Copley confirmed the bomb threat.

“The hospital is open and patient care has not been compromised,” the tweet stated. “While the threat has not been substantiated, appropriate safety measures have been implemented.”

At 12:49 p.m., South Elgin police responded to a bomb threat in the 500 Block of Division Drive, according to a statement from the department. Similar to other reports, the email threatened to bomb the building if $20,000 in bitcoin wasn’t deposited into an account by the end of the business day.

While officers were investigating, they learned of more threats in the area, the statement said. After touching base with the Kane County Bomb Squad, investigators learned the threats were thought to be part of a larger phishing scam targeting businesses.

Meanwhile, Elmhurst police responded about 2 p.m. to a bomb threat that was emailed to a business in the 300 block of North York Road, according to Michael Ruth, chief of police for the western suburb. Like many of the other threats, the email included a demand for bitcoins and was thought to be part of a larger pattern.

About 15 minutes later, the DuPage County sheriff’s office responded to another business that received a ransom email threatening a bombing, according to a statement from DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick.

“This business is one of many businesses throughout DuPage and its collar counties, as well as businesses in other states that have received the same or similar threat via email,” said Mendrick, who noted that the FBI was aiding in the investigations. “At this time there appears to be no credible threat and it looks as if this is an extortion attempt.”

On Thursday afternoon, law enforcement officials were responding to similar threats across the country.

The New York City Police Department said the threats were meant to cause disruption and compel recipients into sending money and are not considered credible.

Some of the emails had the subject line: “Think Twice.”

The Palm Beach County, Florida, sheriff’s office and the Boise, Idaho, police said they had no reason to believe that threats made to locations in those areas were credible.

Across the country, some schools were closed early and others were evacuated because of the threats. Penn State University notified students via a campus alert. Near Atlanta, people were ushered out of a courthouse.