A former student at Rancho Cotate High School was recently convicted of paying an Israeli teen to make false threats to the school in 2017, according to the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety.
The former student, who was not named in a news release about the conviction because he was a minor at the time the crimes were committed, was arrested in April in connection with two bomb threats in 2017. One of the threats said a mass shooting would be carried out during school hours. The man’s arrest followed a two-year investigation led by Rohnert Park police and the FBI.
The first incident occurred about 5:45 p.m. Feb. 27, 2017, when a suspect phoned in a bomb threat to the campus. School was not in session at the time, but members of school athletic teams and staff members who were on campus were evacuated. No suspicious devices were discovered after a search of the building, the news release said.
The next week, another threat was emailed to staff members at the school about 11:35 a.m. March 8. The email mentioned explosive devices and threatened a mass shooting that would occur at the school, which has more than 1,400 students. All students and staff members were evacuated, and the school was closed for the rest of the day. Officials investigated the threats but found no evidence that they were credible.
Rohnert Park detectives began working with the FBI to determine who was responsible for the threats.
In April 2017, the FBI charged an 18-year-old Israeli man with making numerous bomb and active shooter threats to Jewish Community Centers, schools and other institutions across the United States.
The man, who news reports described as a dual American-Israeli citizen, was not identified because he was a minor when many of the threats were made. Officials said he offered to make the threats in exchange for payment via a marketplace on the dark web. The dark web is a part of the internet where illegal activity sometimes takes place, generally accessible only via certain anonymity granting tools.
The man was convicted in Israeli courts for making more than 2,000 threats against Jewish Community Centers around the world in 2017, which led to widespread fear of rising anti-Semitism.
The FBI was able to link the Israeli man to the Rancho Cotate threats, which were made shortly before his arrest.
Rohnert Park detectives and FBI agents analyzed virtual currency and other financial transactions, as well as dark web transactions, to connect the Israeli man to the local suspect, who officials said paid the Israeli to make the threats to Rancho Cotate.
Ultimately, detectives identified a former Rancho Cotate student as the individual who solicited and paid for the threats in 2017, when he was a junior at the school, the news release said.
Although the former student is now an adult, Rohnert Park detectives obtained an arrest warrant through Sonoma County Juvenile Court on March 8 because he was a minor at the time the crimes occurred.
The suspect turned himself in to authorities in April, and was later convicted of the crimes.
An FBI spokesperson declined to provide any details about the investigation, and an official at the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety with knowledge of the case could not be reached for comment over two days.