MIAMI – A woman charged with making threats that caused 300 Florida schools to be locked down and a congressman-elect's top aide to step down was arrested Tuesday, federal authorities said.
Ellisa Martinez, 48, of New Port Richey, Fla., surrendered to FBI agents near Los Angeles, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami said. She is accused of sending an e-mail on Nov. 10 to WFTL 850 AM conservative talk show host Joyce Kaufman, who was tapped to be U.S. Rep.-elect Allen West's chief of staff.
The e-mail said the writer liked that Kaufman had encouraged people to "excercise our second amendment rights" and that "something big" would happen at a government building in Broward County, maybe a school.
Martinez called the Pompano Beach station later that morning and claimed that her husband, Bill Johnson, was going to go to a school in Pembroke Pines and start shooting, according to federal authorities who said they traced the call.
Authorities responded by placing all 300 Broward County schools with about 275,000 students on lockdown for several hours. The South Florida district is the nation's sixth-largest.
Kaufman, 56, has been on South Florida radio for nearly 20 years. She "considers herself fiercely independent and is not ashamed of putting America first, like real liberals used to and our weak-kneed politicians and some so-called conservatives claim to," according to the radio station's biography. She also carries a .357 magnum.
Kaufman stepped down as West's chief of staff a day after the lockdown, saying she wanted to avoid any repercussions against him.
In the e-mail that federal authorities said they tracked to Martinez's computer, the writer expressed a need to "take our country back from the illegal aliens, jews, muslims, and illuminati who are running the show."
The writer also claimed to be "planning something big around a government building here in Broward County, maybe a post office, maybe even a school, I'm going to walk in and teach all the government hacks working there what the 2nd amendment is all about," according to the complaint filed Nov. 12.
Martinez was taken into custody at her attorney's office in Van Nuys, Calif., late Tuesday, said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller in Los Angeles. Martinez had been staying in Van Nuys for a short while, Eimiller said, and her attorney and FBI agents negotiated her surrender.
She is charged with interstate communication of a threat to injure another and expected in court Wednesday. Eimiller had no immediate information on the attorney's name and Martinez was being held in a federal detention center in Los Angeles.
When agents interviewed Martinez at her New Port Richey home the same day as the lockdown, she denied making any threat. She told agents she had temporarily lost her phone at a local cafe that morning and that her home computer was unsecured. New Port Richey is near Tampa, across the state from the Pompano Beach radio station and Broward County.
When agents went to get a search warrant for Martinez's phone and computer, she was able to slip out and not return, according to the complaint.
No evidence of a "Bill Johnson" was found.
Miami FBI spokesman Michael Leverock said agents have no motive for why Martinez made the threats.
Kaufman's selection to lead West's staff was a surprise, since she's never worked in government. But she was one of his early backers and spoke often at his rallies. West, like many tea party candidates, pledged to work outside the Washington and political establishment.
When Kaufman told listeners she was stepping down as West's aide, she said she had received death threats since the lockdown and claimed liberal media were bent on bringing down conservative politicians and West.
West said he was glad Martinez was arrested.
"I hope she's charged to the fullest extent of the law," West said. "And if there are any organizations connected to her, they should be pursued, as well."
No political or other affiliations were listed in the criminal complaint.
Associated Press writer Daisy Nguyen in Los Angeles contributed to this report.