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Bomb-hoax probe continues

Terrorism hoaxes against the federal government can carry heavy consequences for perpetrators, and a recent bomb scare at a Delmar post office brought attention to the amount of money and manpower that goes into investigating such a crime.

Bethlehem police called in authorities from the FBI Aug. 11, following a report from an unidentified person of a ticking package outside the post office on Delaware Avenue.

The entire post office block was cordoned off for several hours until the suspicious package was determined to be a hoax. Businesses and residences around the post office were evacuated.

The package was wrapped in tape, but authorities now believe it was not ticking. The FBI has the fake device, and it is currently in a lab being tested.

The Anti Hoax Terrorism Act of November 2001 states it's a felony for anyone to perpetrate a hoax relating to biological, chemical, nuclear and weapons of mass destruction.

This is a federal charge, and the person could potentially face federal time, said Paul Holstein, media coordinator for the Albany Division of the FBI.

Hoaxes, such as the one in Delmar, can cost local and federal governments hundreds of thousands of dollars to investigate. One case in Los Angeles recently cost $600,000 to investigate.

The use of specialized gear adds to the cost of these investigations. Special clothing, such as respirators and protective jumpsuits, and sealed containers are used in the decontamination and evacuation of areas under investigation and the transportation of potentially hazardous packages.

State police K-9 officers, Delmar fire officials, the Capital Region Forensics/Hazardous Materials Unit were all called to the scene last week, along with the FBI and Bethlehem police.

According to Holstein, the investigation of the hoax continues with assistance from the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, state and local police, and the Saratoga County forensics team.

The incident occurred just two days after British authorities arrested several people on terrorism charges for an alleged plot against the United States and one day after the guilty verdict in the Christopher Porco murder trial.

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