A Port Richmond pizza cook is in hot water with the feds after allegedly perpetrating a fake bomb threat as revenge for a “compromising picture” of his girlfriend posted on Facebook by her ex boyfriend.
Kenneth W. Smith Jr., 26, was arrested by federal authorities after being named the perpetrator of the phone hoax, the victim of which has been identified as Christopher Shell, 29, the ex boyfriend.
Shell had just boarded a plane to Texas on September 6 when Smith allegedly made a pay phone call to authorities, identifying himself as “George Michaels,” and stating that Shell was smuggling “liquid explosive” through airport security.
Now Smith, who worked at 3 Brothers Pizza at 2621 E. Ontario St., faces up to 15 years in prison for the alleged revenge attempt.
“Mr. Smith is presumed innocent,” said William Brennan, Smith’s attorney. “Mr. Smith is a decent, hard-working guy. He has no criminal record. He’s worked his entire life, he went to Kensington High School.”
US Airways Flight 1267 was carrying 74 passengers and crew members over Harrisburg, headed for Dallas, Texas, when it was rerouted to Philadelphia, where the plane was met by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Philadelphia Police Bomb Disposal Unit.
Officers stormed the plane and seized Shell and his carry-on luggage, but found no explosives. They also searched the plane and screened the other passengers’ luggage as well.
After no explosives were found, Shell allegedly told authorities that he suspected his ex-girlfriend and Smith were responsible for the phone call, according to the criminal complaint, and then directed officers to 3 Brothers Pizza, where a manager pointed out “Kenny” to authorities.
A young woman working at 3 Brothers Pizza on Saturday told Star that Smith was no longer an employee after this incident.
Asked why Smith would make the alleged phone threat, she said, “I think he just wasn’t thinking.”
She also defended the younger woman allegedly at the heart of the fracas.
“She’s not going out with every guy. She’s my best friend,” the young woman said. She declined to identify herself.
A moment later, co-workers came forward from the kitchen and advised her to discontinue the interview.
Smith appeared before a magistrate judge on September 7 and was released on $250,000 bail. He reportedly must undergo drug tests and meet daily with pretrial services officers.
Smith was charged with two counts of making false threats, and could face a maximum of 15 years in prison.
According to the criminal complaint, Smith admitted to authorities after being arrested that he concocted the scheme with friends the night before, intending to tell police that Shell was smuggling narcotics.
Instead, Smith told authorities when he woke up the next morning on September 6, at around 7:20 a.m., he walked to a telephone booth and told Philadelphia Airport Police that Shell was carrying liquid explosives, according to the complaint.
Smith allegedly provided the false name and said he lived at 1861 Frankford Ave.
According to the complaint, Smith admitted that he had made the phone call after being arrested, and said it was to “avenge” his 19-year-old girlfriend, of whom a compromising picture had been posted on Facebook by Shell.
“I didn’t view the photo, but the photo was described to me, and it was a very inappropriate photo,” Brennan said.
The salacious nature of the photograph is not clear, but Brennan said that if had been posted before the woman in question reached the legal age of emancipation, criminal charges could have been filed against Shell over its posting.
Brennan said he would be talking with prosecutors about the case’s progress within 30 days.
Reporter Sam Newhouse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.