Pennsylvania State Police arrested two people yesterday for their alleged involvement in making a bomb threat to the Presque Isle Downs & Casino in Erie.
Norman Antuzzi, 48, of Erie, and Parlee Jo Ferko, 38, of Edinboro, were both charged in relation to the bomb threat, which turned out to be a hoax. Over the weekend, Presque Isle evacuated its casino complex on Saturday after a bomb threat was phoned in.
Law enforcement alleges in court documents that Ferko is a bartender at the casino, and was in contact with Antuzzi, a former Presque Isle employee, shortly before the bomb threat was made. According to information in the affidavit, Ferko was complaining about work to Antuzzi when he asked if she wanted him to call in a threat to the casino.
“She replied, ‘Yes,’” the complaint alleges.
Presque Isle Downs received a bomb threat just before 10pm last night. For the safety of our guests and team members, we evacuated the building while PSP investigated. The bomb squad was called in which utilized three K-9s and deemed the threat unfounded.
— Presque Isle Downs (@PID_Casino) June 27, 2021
Antuzzi was charged with one felony count of making a terroristic threat that caused an evacuation of a building. He remains in Erie County Prison on a $50,000 bond.
Ferko was charged with the same felony count, plus a third-degree misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct. Since she isn’t alleged to have actually made the threat and is not deemed a public threat, Ferko was released following her arraignment.
Defendant Rejects Allegation
An attorney representing Ferko said police have the Presque Isle Downs Casino bomb hoax all wrong. Erie lawyer Charbel Latouf told the Erie Times-News that the complaint left out critical detail.
My client’s response to him was ‘LOL,’ and not simply ‘yes,’” Latouf said. “She believed it to be made in jest and not at all serious.
“We will vigorously defend this case on her behalf, as she did not conspire with him at all,” Latouf added.
State police said the bomb threat was received at Presque Isle at 9:40 pm local time on Saturday night.
“For the safety of all employees, patrons, and visitors, the decision was made to fully evacuate the building based on the threat,” the incident report details. “The building was then searched by use of explosive detection canines. The results of the searches were negative, and the casino was reopened.”
The complaint contends that the evacuation and suspension of operations cost the casino approximately $100,000. The casino was closed from Saturday night through about 7 am on Sunday.
The casino is owned by Churchill Downs, which acquired the property in early 2019 for $178.9 million from Eldorado Resorts.
Bomb Threats Have Major Penalties
In Pennsylvania, making a bomb threat or other terroristic warnings is typically a misdemeanor of the first degree, according to attorneys at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, a criminal defense firm in Pittsburgh. However, the law office says if the threat causes people to stop their normal activities in a building, place of assembly, or public transportation facility, the charge is upgraded to a felony.
Those found guilty of a felony terroristic threat in Pennsylvania face up to seven years in prison, plus a fine of up to $15,000.
The Erie casino bomb hoax follows a similar phony incident last month at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa. Police there traced the call to a 54-year-old Florida woman who was simply mad after losing $380 gambling at the casino.
In April, a disgruntled casino security guard at the Horseshoe Bossier City Hotel & Casino in Louisiana was charged with making a bomb threat to the resort. He, too, admitted he had no actual plan to carry out placing an explosive at the property.
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