The Warren County Industrial Development Board is among what could be thousands of businesses nationwide that received an email bomb threat Thursday around noon.
The email claimed a bomb was in the building and demanded a ransom payment of $20,000. The IDB office is located inside the Chamber of Commerce in downtown McMinnville.
“The email said not to contact police,” said Industrial Development Board director Don Alexander. “So the first thing we did was call the police.”
McMinnville Police Chief Bryan Denton said the email threat was taken seriously. Court Square was blocked off and no traffic was allowed for about an hour. Officers with McMinnville Police Department and the Tennessee Highway Patrol descended on the scene to ensure no bomb was in the building.
“I’ve heard about similar bomb threats throughout Tennessee,” said Denton, indicating it was a robo bomb threat.
The email threat was received just a few minutes before the monthly IDB meeting on Thursday. The meeting had to be moved to City Hall.
“I make a motion we don’t pay the $20,000,” joked IDB member Gary Judkins.
A few different versions of the email threat appeared Thursday in online news stories from Iowa to Alaska. The versions all demand $20,000 by the end of the workday and are written in bad English similar to the Nigerian prince scams of years ago.
One of the emails says in part:
“Hello. My man hid an explosive device (Hexogen) in the building where your business is conducted. My mercenary assembled the explosive device according to my guide. It has small dimensions and it is covered up very carefully, it is impossible to damage the building structure by my bomb, but in the case of its detonation there will be many victims.”
After including an address where funds can be sent electronically, the email says:
“You must solve problems with the transaction by the end of the workday, if you are late with the money the device will detonate. Nothing personal this is just a business.”
The FBI has advised the e-mail was not a credible threat.