NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A Staten Island man was arraigned Thursday after being arrested in connection with a string of bomb hoaxes.
Omar Duran was arrested Wednesday on charges of placing a false bomb, criminal possession of a weapon and reckless endangerment.
Investigators said the 54-year-old New Brighton man planted fake bombs around Staten Island in a bizarre ploy to incriminate his neighbor’s new husband and win over her 8-year-old daughter, CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown reported.
Police said Duran was a sort of “mentor” to the young girl — a relationship the girl’s mother approved of — but was apparently afraid of losing her affections to her new stepfather, Brown reported.
Prosecutors say they have Duran full confession, but he told reporters in Spanish on Thursday he did nothing wrong, CBS 2’s Andrea Grymes reported. He is being held in jail on a $500,000 bond $350,000 cash bail.
Three times since Sept. 2, police on Staten Island have been called for reports of suspicious packages.
On Sept. 2, a computer laptop bag was left on the street in Port Richmond with what appeared to be a bomb inside, police said. After evacuating nearby homes and businesses, the NYPD determined it was a fake.
Two other similar incidents happened over the past few weeks, but those bombs were real. Each of them had the name and address of the girl’s new stepfather inside the bags.
The canvas bags included bomb-making materials such as alarm clocks, wires, small propane tanks, containers of gasoline, plastic bottles and spray paint — all shrink-wrapped together.
Police called them crude improvised explosive devices, but they lacked an ignition source.
“It looked like a bomb. It was assembled like a bomb, and I said, ‘OK’ and called 911,” neighbor Sue Gunaratne said.
Each bag contained a note with the name and address of the girl’s new stepfather, police said.
Investigators believe Duran never intended to blow up anything, but instead wanted police to suspect and possibly deport his neighbor’s new husband.
Neighbors on Sumner Place describe Duran as helpful and friendly and said he was frequently seen sitting outside his home and playing with the children in his building.
“Honestly, he was one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet,” said neighbor Ray Magnuski. “It’s a little shocking right now.”
“He’s a good guy,” neighbor Pat Beottalico said. “I’m in shock he did that.”
“If I had known, we could keep an eye out for things like this,” Julio Filiciano said. “But I knew nothing about this.”
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