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Man calls charges in Kansas City airport bomb hoax 'absurd'

Tuesday, September 13, 2011 | 7:52 a.m. CDT; updated 4:23 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, September 13, 2011

KANSAS CITY — Anthony Falco Jr. professed his love for America and at one point mumbled the word "lies" as he was charged with trying to take a fake bomb through a security checkpoint at Kansas City International Airport on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

The 47-year-old Falco — whose mother told authorities that her son has a history of mental illness and recently quit taking his medications — repeatedly shook his head in disagreement Monday as a judge read an FBI agent's affidavit outlining actions that led to a two-count federal complaint.

Falco is charged with making false statements to federal agents and trying to bring items simulating an explosive device through security, then making statements that led agents to believe it was a bomb. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison on each count.

Prosecutors said security screeners at the airport discovered suspicious items in a carry-on bag as it went through the X-ray machine. Among the items were a laptop computer and several individually wrapped packages investigators said were "over-taped," which often is the case with homemade bombs.

Falco told officers that he did not give permission to open the packages, which investigators believed contained components for making a bomb. Police brought in a bomb-sniffing dog to sweep the packages.

"During the K-9 sweep ... Falco began to chant Bible verses and began to appear to pray, saying, 'Father God America is going to go down,'" U.S. Magistrate Judge John Maughmer read. "He continued to say words similar to, 'You guys are going to be sorry if you open those packages.'"

When Maughmer finished reading, Falco told the judge the affidavit was wrong.

"That's totally absurd," Falco said. "I never made any statements. I love this country."

Maughmer interrupted and told Falco — who appeared in knee-length shorts, a white T-shirt and tennis shoes that had the laces removed — that the hearing wasn't the place for him to make such statements.

Falco did not yet have a lawyer. The U.S. attorney's office in Kansas City said his last known address is East Petersburg, Pa.

According to the affidavit, Falco's mother, Bea Whitehead, told members of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force that her son previously received psychiatric treatment in New York.

James Whitehead, reached at a phone number attached to a home previously listed as an address for Falco, said he had been advised not to talk to reporters.

"My attorney said it's not in my best interest or Anthony's best interest to say anything to the media," Whitehead said before hanging up.

The Associated Press confirmed Sunday that Falco briefly was an officer with the New York Police Department roughly a decade ago. U.S. Attorney Beth Phillips declined to address that issue Monday, saying she was limiting her statement to what's in the affidavit and complaint.

Security officers stopped Falco about 9:30 a.m. Sunday at a Southwest Airlines checkpoint and asked if they could examine his bag. Falco was taken into custody after becoming belligerent and a Kansas City bomb squad later determined the bag didn't contain explosives.

A Kansas City bomb squad used a high-pressure water blast to disrupt the device outside the terminal and determine it did not contain explosives.

The items in one package included a clock, single "A'' battery, an iPod, a digital camera, a camera battery and wires, the affidavit said. The other two packages contained two "C'' batteries, components of a digital camera and cellphone, along with other personal items.

The Transportation Security Administration said it shut down much of Terminal B, one of the airport's three separate terminals, for several hours Sunday "out of an abundance of caution." The terminal's parking lot also was closed, forcing passengers to park at a different terminal hundreds of yards away.

The TSA move resulted in long, slow-moving lines at the Southwest checkpoint that remained open near the end of the terminal, and at the airline's ticket counter. At least two flights were canceled because of the security situation and several others were delayed.

Airport police walked with a bomb-sniffing dog along the long lines of people who were waiting to check their luggage with a skycap outside the terminal. Inside, incoming passengers poured into a concourse already brimming with people waiting for delayed flights, causing even more congestion.

Falco was detained as ceremonies were going on nationwide in remembrance of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Four planes hijacked by 19 men crashed into the World Trade Center, Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, killing nearly 3,000 people.


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