MILLINOCKET, Maine – A bomb threat at a supermarket on Wednesday appears to be part of a national scam targeting banks and retailers, police said.
The state police tactical squad was called to the Hannaford supermarket after an employee arrived to find the doors locked and employees and customers sitting inside in a circle, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.
It turns out a bomb threat was called into the store, McCausland said.
"It was an extortion case in which they were told to wire money or there would be a bomb that would be detonated in the store," he said.
At 11:30 a.m., about 50 to 60 customers and employees were released from the store unhurt. The store remained closed, however, because state police planned to sweep the store with bomb-sniffing dogs as a precaution.
Store maintenance associate Ivan Garay told the Bangor Daily News that store manager Michael Bennett told everyone to sit on the floor. Later, they were informed that there had been a bomb threat.
McCausland didn't know the exact nature of the demands made by the caller. But there have been similar threats across the country, including one Tuesday in Newport, R.I., in which store employees wired $10,000 to the caller.
FBI spokesman Rich Kolko said the Rhode Island threat appeared related to a plot in recent days targeting banks and stores near Phoenix, Detroit, Salt Lake City and Philadelphia. The FBI was alerted to the Millinocket incident, as well.
"At this point, there's enough similarities that we think it's potentially one person or one group," Kolko said from Washington.