- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Many D.C. banks closed yesterday morning after the D.C. police received an anonymous bomb threat the day before from a man saying a financial center would explode at noon.
The caller, an unidentified male from the Netherlands, said a bomb would be detonated inside an unspecified bank in Washington at noon. The caller said he learned about the threat from an informant and mentioned the type of explosives that would be used.
Later in the day, prosecutors in the Netherlands said a 13-year-old boy may be to blame for the bomb threat. Dutch authorities said the teen admitted calling D.C. police from his cell phone and making a threat as a prank.
D.C. police notified the FBI Washington field office as a precaution.
"It is obviously a false alarm," said D.C. police spokesman Sgt. Joe Gentile. "But our officers are working with the FBI on a task force to investigate further."
By late afternoon yesterday, Dutch public prosecutor spokesman Wim de Bruin said the threat was a prank by a 13-year old Dutch boy. "He admitted that he had sent the threat from his mobile telephone," Mr. de Bruin said.
Charges had not been filed by late yesterday afternoon.
But many of the city's banks, erring on the side of caution, closed their doors by noon.
SunTrust Banks Inc. shut its 23 metro Washington branches and evacuated employees around 11 a.m.; Wachovia Corp., the fourth-biggest U.S. bank, closed about 25 offices in the city, saying it would reopen today. First Union also shuttered its D.C. branches until today.
"It really was at their discretion to close," said John Hall, spokesman for the American Bankers Association. "And banks' number one priority is the safety of their customers and employees, so most of them closed."
Signs at the main branch of Riggs National Bank on 1101 15th St. NW read "closed due to emergency." But that didn't stop the afternoon lunch crowd from visiting the automated teller machines before trekking to their favorite trendy downtown eateries. The banks kept their ATMs open for business.
Riggs closed 23 branches, while 15 others remained open in the suburbs, said spokesman Mark Hendrix.
Not all banks closed and some reopened after the threat was deemed false.
Police advised the Adams National Bank of the bomb threat around 10:30 a.m.; within an hour, officers had secured each of the bank's five branches.
"We have locked the doors," said David Glaser, senior vice president of the bank. "But we're allowing known customers in to complete banking transactions. Adams Bank is a community bank, so we tend to know most of our customers on a personal basis."
Citibank closed about 25 branches yesterday morning, only to reopen them several hours later, when the threat had been cleared, said Mark Rogers, a spokesman for the company.
Banks would not speculate on how much yesterday's bogus bomb threat cost them.
"It's kind of tough to tell at this point," Mr. Glaser said. "Business has been slower than normal, but that may be attributed to several factors, including the delightful weather, it being tax day, and with the rumored protests throughout the city that I think have many people staying away."
There was little police presence seen near any of the downtown banks after 1 p.m.
Bank employees who got a surprise day off to enjoy the beautiful spring day were not the least bit worried.
Employees at the Amalgamated Bank near 18th and K streets were laughing off the threat as they waited to find out if their branch would be closed for the entire day.
One employee said she thought "if someone threatens to do something, they won't." Another said she was hoping to leave soon so she could go shopping.
Another employee, though, sounded regretful. He said he had hoped to get some work done.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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