Prosecutors: JCC bomb threat suspect tried to extort US state senator

Jewish center bomb threats across nation
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  • The state senator is Ernesto Lopez, a Delaware Republican
  • The suspect is accused of calling in a threat against the Boston Celtics' airplane

Jerusalem (CNN)An 18-year old man accused of calling in hundreds of bomb threats to Jewish community centers in the United States also tried to extort a US state senator, according to the prosecutor's office in Israel.

The man, a dual American-Israeli citizen from the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, demanded payment every 72 hours via Bitcoin from Ernesto Lopez, a Republican state senator from Delaware.
The man threatened to order illicit drugs on the Internet and send them to Lopez's house if he did not pay, the statement said.
    The senator's district is in southern Delaware and it includes the cities of Rehoboth Beach and Lewes.
    "Over a year ago, I released a statement in support of Delaware children and teachers condemning repeated bomb threats being made to our local schools," Lopez said in a statement.
    He was making reference to a spate of bomb threats in Delaware and along the East Coast last year.
    "Today, I would like to thank all of the law enforcement agencies who participated in the investigation which has led to the successful apprehension of a prime suspect in Israel."
    He said he would have no further comment because the case is ongoing and asked that questions be directed to the FBI in Baltimore.
    The Israeli prosecutor's office issued a statement detailing the indictment sheet filed Monday morning in Tel Aviv's Magistrate's Court.
    The suspect is also accused of calling in a threat against the airplane of the NBA's Boston Celtics as it was headed to a game, the prosecutor's office said, causing a security sweep of the jet.

    'Deteriorating health'

    Prosecutors say the man made more than 2,000 threatening calls over two years to airports, schools, Jewish institutions, police stations, and other places in multiple countries.
    He faces charges in Israel of extortion, money laundering, drug dealing, attacking a policeman, and more.
    The indictment indicates a decision to try the suspect in Israel, making a US extradition request unlikely.
    His attorney, Shira Nir, said his detention has been extended until May 4 and his case has been moved to a juvenile court, since he was a minor at the time of the offenses.
    Nir emphasized her client's "deteriorating" health and said she was seeking further psychiatric and neurological evaluations of her client to support her concerns.
    "Leaks to the press from yesterday show once again the prosecution's strategy is to present my client as a villain, when in fact it is clear to see that he is a helpless young man on the autistic spectrum suffering from a brain tumor and with severe psychiatric disorders," Nir said.
    At the time of his arrest, his previous attorney, Galit Besh, said the suspect suffers from an inoperable brain tumor and that he has a history of behavioral issues. Under Israeli law, there is a statutory ban on revealing the identity of anyone accused of committing offenses as a minor.