A woman has been arrested after she allegedly called Boston Children's Hospital and said a bomb was on the way. The threat was later determined to be a hoax.
Catherine Leavy, of Westfield, Massachusetts, was taken into custody without incident at her home on Thursday morning, officials said during a press conference. The 37-year-old was charged with one federal count of explosive materials — willfully making a false bomb threat.
She made an initial court appearance Thursday afternoon and was detained pending a hearing scheduled for Friday. Leavy faces up to 10 years in prison, three years supervised release and a $250,000 fine if convicted, according to U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Rachael Rollins.
On Aug. 30, a hospital employee received a call from someone who said: "There is a bomb on the way to the hospital. You better evacuate everybody, you sickos," Rollins said during the Thursday press conference.
The call was allegedly in relation to the hospital's gender multispecialty service, which the hospital describes as safe health care it offers its gender diverse and transgender patients and their families, Rollins said.
Children's Hospital was subsequently placed on lockdown. Several agencies responded and determined there was no bomb.
"Bomb hoaxes cause fear, panic and a diversion of resources that have a real impact on our communities," Rollins said Thursday. "The people that work at Children's Hospital and the parents who bring their loved ones to Children's Hospital are under enough stress."
Leavy was determined to be the suspect after authorities received the caller's phone number and traced it to her, officials said.
Authorities said they located that phone while searching Leavy's home Thursday morning.
"Today's arrest should serve as a strong warning to others that making threats of violence is not a prank — it's a federal crime, and can carry up to five years in a federal prison," said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, head of the FBI Boston office, during the press conference.
Authorities did not disclose a motive. Children's Hospital has received more than a dozen threats, many related to the care it provides its gender diverse and transgender patients, Rollins said. She said Children's Hospital and other hospitals that offer those kinds of services deserve to do so "without fear."
Rollins said her office will continue to investigate such hate crimes.
"It seems that this is happening all too often — that hoaxes are used to promote personal, hateful beliefs and ideologies," Rollins said. "We will not standby and allow this continue."
Rollins said more charges are possible.
Earlier this summer, FBI Director Christopher Wraythat Iranian-backed hackers launched an unsuccessful cyberattack against Boston Children's Hospital in 2021. He called it "one of the most despicable cyberattacks I've seen" during a speech at Boston College.
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