A British teenager has been jailed for making bomb threats to thousands of schools and a United Airlines flight travelling to San Francisco. George Duke-Cohan, 19, grounded the US-bound plane by telling police terrorists had taken over the flight. He was arrested in his bedroom in Watford after sending thousands of emails to schools across the UK in March this year.
Today, Duke-Cohan was sentenced to three years in prison at Luton Crown Court. He admitted being behind the hoax bomb plot, which led to 400 schools being evacuated. The whole reason for the massive prank was allegedly down to a feud with another gamer.
Threatening emails were made to look like they had been sent by a gaming network known as VeltPvP – a server used by gamers playing Minecraft. Up to 24,000 emails were sent to schools across the UK, including the North East, London, Bristol and Humberside. On August 9, the hacker group known as ‘Apophis Squad’ claimed on Twitter that flight UAL 949 had been grounded due to their actions.
National Crime Agency officers working with the FBI discovered that Duke-Cohan had made phone calls to San Francisco Airport and their Bureau police. In a recording of one of the phone calls, which was made while the plane was in the air, Duke-Cohan posed as a worried father claiming his daughter had contacted him from the flight to say it had been hijacked by gunmen. He said one of the gunmen had a bomb. When the plane landed in San Francisco, officers trawled through the plane looking for a device. All 295 passengers were forced to stay on the plane, causing disruption to onward journeys and financial loss to the airline.
In an operation supported by Hertfordshire Police, Duke-Cohan was arrested by NCA officers at his home in Watford on August 31. Officers had arrested him just days after the hoax emails were sent earlier this year, and he was released on bail, with conditions forbidding Duke-Cohan’s use of technology. But he continued to send bomb hoaxes, including more emails to schools in the UK and US. Duke-Cohan, of Watford, previously admitted three counts of making hoax bomb threats at Luton Magistrates’ Court.