Port Rich. pizza cook charged in phone hoax

Ken­neth W. Smith Jr., who worked at 3 Broth­ers Pizza on Ontario St., could face up to 15 years in pris­on.

A Port Rich­mond pizza cook is in hot wa­ter with the feds after al­legedly per­pet­rat­ing a fake bomb threat as re­venge for a “com­prom­ising pic­ture” of his girl­friend pos­ted on Face­book by her ex boy­friend.

Ken­neth W. Smith Jr., 26, was ar­res­ted by fed­er­al au­thor­it­ies after be­ing named the per­pet­rat­or of the phone hoax, the vic­tim of which has been iden­ti­fied as Chris­toph­er Shell, 29, the ex boy­friend.

Shell had just boarded a plane to Texas on Septem­ber 6 when Smith al­legedly made a pay phone call to au­thor­it­ies, identi­fy­ing him­self as “George Mi­chaels,” and stat­ing that Shell was smug­gling “li­quid ex­plos­ive” through air­port se­cur­ity.

Now Smith, who worked at 3 Broth­ers Pizza at 2621 E. Ontario St., faces up to 15 years in pris­on for the al­leged re­venge at­tempt.

“Mr. Smith is pre­sumed in­no­cent,” said Wil­li­am Bren­nan, Smith’s at­tor­ney. “Mr. Smith is a de­cent, hard-work­ing guy. He has no crim­in­al re­cord. He’s worked his en­tire life, he went to Kens­ing­ton High School.”

US Air­ways Flight 1267 was car­ry­ing 74 pas­sen­gers and crew mem­bers over Har­ris­burg, headed for Dal­las, Texas, when it was rerouted to Phil­adelphia, where the plane was met by the Bur­eau of Al­co­hol, To­bacco, Fire­arms and Ex­plos­ives’ (ATF) Joint Ter­ror­ism Task Force and the Phil­adelphia Po­lice Bomb Dis­pos­al Unit. 

Of­ficers stormed the plane and seized Shell and his carry-on lug­gage, but found no ex­plos­ives. They also searched the plane and screened the oth­er pas­sen­gers’ lug­gage as well.

After no ex­plos­ives were found, Shell al­legedly told au­thor­it­ies that he sus­pec­ted his ex-girl­friend and Smith were re­spons­ible for the phone call, ac­cord­ing to the crim­in­al com­plaint, and then dir­ec­ted of­ficers to 3 Broth­ers Pizza, where a man­ager poin­ted out “Kenny” to au­thor­it­ies.

A young wo­man work­ing at 3 Broth­ers Pizza on Sat­urday told Star that Smith was no longer an em­ploy­ee after this in­cid­ent.

Asked why Smith would make the al­leged phone threat, she said, “I think he just wasn’t think­ing.”

She also de­fen­ded the young­er wo­man al­legedly at the heart of the fracas.

“She’s not go­ing out with every guy. She’s my best friend,” the young wo­man said. She de­clined to identi­fy her­self.

A mo­ment later, co-work­ers came for­ward from the kit­chen and ad­vised her to dis­con­tin­ue the in­ter­view.

Smith ap­peared be­fore a ma­gis­trate judge on Septem­ber 7 and was re­leased on $250,000 bail. He re­portedly must un­der­go drug tests and meet daily with pre­tri­al ser­vices of­ficers.

Smith was charged with two counts of mak­ing false threats, and could face a max­im­um of 15 years in pris­on.

Ac­cord­ing to the crim­in­al com­plaint, Smith ad­mit­ted to au­thor­it­ies after be­ing ar­res­ted that he con­cocted the scheme with friends the night be­fore, in­tend­ing to tell po­lice that Shell was smug­gling nar­cot­ics.

In­stead, Smith told au­thor­it­ies when he woke up the next morn­ing on Septem­ber 6, at around 7:20 a.m., he walked to a tele­phone booth and told Phil­adelphia Air­port Po­lice that Shell was car­ry­ing li­quid ex­plos­ives, ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint.

Smith al­legedly provided the false name and said he lived at 1861 Frank­ford Ave.

Ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint, Smith ad­mit­ted that he had made the phone call after be­ing ar­res­ted, and said it was to “avenge” his 19-year-old girl­friend, of whom a com­prom­ising pic­ture had been pos­ted on Face­book by Shell.

“I didn’t view the photo, but the photo was de­scribed to me, and it was a very in­ap­pro­pri­ate photo,” Bren­nan said.

The sa­la­cious nature of the pho­to­graph is not clear, but Bren­nan said that if had been pos­ted be­fore the wo­man in ques­tion reached the leg­al age of eman­cip­a­tion, crim­in­al charges could have been filed against Shell over its post­ing.

Bren­nan said he would be talk­ing with pro­sec­utors about the case’s pro­gress with­in 30 days.

Re­port­er Sam Ne­w­house can be reached at sne­w­house9@gmail.com.

You can reach at snewhouse@bsmphilly.com.

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