BIRCH RUN (WJRT) -
(06/11/14) - An investigation is underway after a popular shopping destination reported several phone threats.
The calls started two weeks ago at a store at the Birch Run Premium Outlets.
There was another one on Tuesday, and while the caller might think it's just a prank, it's a crime that could lead to prison time.
Two bomb threats and one threat of a different nature were phoned into the outlets.
While police and mall management take them seriously, the threats seem to be causing more frustration than fear.
On Memorial weekend at the Premium Outlets at Birch Run, a person answered the phone at one of the stores and was told there was a bomb inside.
"There was no bomb, no anything, but it was inconvenient for the store and they evacuated the store and the stores on either side of it," said Al Swearengin, Birch Run police chief.
Just days after that, there was a different type of call to a different store.
"Another one where they were going to disrupt their business by attacking people in the store," Swearengin said.
Again, police responded, and found no problems. Someone else had called another store saying state police wanted it evacuated, but there was no problem there either.
Then on Tuesday, another bomb threat was called into the same store that received the one on Memorial weekend. The state police and the FBI once again found nothing to substantiate the threat.
"It's an obvious attempt by somebody, or more than one person, to disrupt the businesses in the mall, although disrupting them, they are not closing them down, they are causing more of an inconvenience for us and the state police," Swearengin said.
Swearengin says an effort to locate the source of the phone calls continues, and they have some leads. He says if the person or people behind the threats are caught, they could face federal terrorism charges.
"Under the Terrorist Act, they can go to prison. It's not a simple bogus phone call, it's actually held under the Terrorist Act," he said.
The mall has its own security staff, and Birch Run police are stepping up patrols around the businesses.