Court: Man feigned Hispanic accent in Carmike bomb threat

Suspect tried to sound like competitors; thought they hired illegal aliens

tchitwood@ledger-enqurier.comDecember 18, 2013 

Carmike 15 is located at 5555 Whitlesey Parkway in Columbus.

BILLY SMITH II

The Arkansas man who in 2012 telephoned a bomb threat to Carmike Cinemas’ Columbus headquarters tried to feign a Hispanic accent to make the company think he was one of his competitors in the business of cleaning theaters, authorities said.

Keith Bowers, 59, of Jessieville, Ark., believed his rivals in janitorial services were hiring undocumented workers to cut their prices, and hoped his scheme would result in Carmike’s canceling contracts with his competition, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Melvin Hyde.

Hyde recounted the case Wednesday in U.S. District Court as Bowers pleaded guilty to one count of transmitting threats to interstate commerce.

Judge Clay Land set his sentencing hearing for 9:30 a.m. Feb. 25. Hyde said the offense carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Before his plea, Bowers told Land he’s now being treated for depression, suicidal tendencies and panic attacks, and likely would not have committed the crime had he earlier sought treatment, as his family urged him to do.

“If I had gone in and said something, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here today,” he told Land.

In reviewing the case, Hyde said Bowers was soliciting business in Longview, Texas, on Aug. 16, 2012, when he used a Bank of America credit card to buy a wireless Tracfone at a Kmart. Then he twice used the device to call Carmike in Columbus, threatening to detonate a bomb at a showing of the action film “The Expendables 2.”

Despite his Arkansas dialect, Bowers tried to sound Hispanic as he began his call with “Senor, this is Jose,” Hyde said.

The movie title apparently fit the message Bowers wished to convey: A Columbus police lieutenant earlier said Bowers told Carmike, “You don’t pay us enough. You cut back our hours. We’re not expendable. We’ll show you we’re not expendable.”

The threat prompted authorities to search some theaters for explosives.

Federal investigators traced the Tracfone number to the Kmart and to the credit card used to purchase it. The card was in Bowers’ name.

FBI agents arrested Bowers on Sept. 17. He later was released on $10,000 bond, and remains free as he awaits sentencing.

Carmike Cinemas issued this statement Wednesday from Chief Operating Officer Fred Van Noy:

“We are grateful to all of the law enforcement agencies and professionals involved in this case for their diligence in bringing it to its ultimate closure.”

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