A federal grand jury in San Diego has handed down indictments against two shipyard workers at BAE Systems' San Diego Ship Repair Facility for making false bomb threats.
In separate instances, workers Robert Rubio and Joshua Rice allegedly scrawled the word "bomb" on surfaces within the shipyard, then reported the graffiti as a legitimate bomb threat. On September 24, Rubio, a welder with BAE's yard, allegedly wrote the text "9-24-16 400 BOMB" within a compartment on the USS Cowpens while she was alongside for repairs. Rice, an employee of a local marine coatings contractor, allegedly wrote the word "bomb" inside of a portable toilet on May 17.
The men were each charged with one count of “false information and hoaxes (18 U.S. Code § 1038);” if convicted, they could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The indictment did not suggest whether they had been acting in coordination, nor did it suggest a motive. However, U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy indicated that that the men may have made the alleged false reports in order to get time off. “Everyone should know that making false bomb threats is taken very seriously by federal law enforcement, and it is a felony offense,” she said. “This is not a legal or smart way of getting out of work.”
“The bomb threats on and around Naval Base San Diego since November 2015 have had a huge negative impact on the efficiency and productivity of the shipyard's efforts to maintain Navy readiness,” said Gunnar Newquist, Special Agent in Charge of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service Southwest Field Office. Newquist cited tips from outside sources as a factor in the suspects' identification and arrest. NCIS had set up a text message tip line and a reward of $10,000 for valuable leads, twice the usual amount and an indication of the seriousness of the problem.
Though Rubio and Rice are only charged with one count each, the repair yard and the adjacent San Diego Naval Base have recorded over two dozen bomb threats over the past year – most of them over the six month period between November 2015 and May 2016. Each threat shut down the yard for hours while security personnel conducted a sweep.