Authorities say a Houston man used a fake Middle Eastern accent to call in a series of fraudulent bomb threats last month to Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank as well to the SAG-AFTRA offices in Los Angeles and New York City.
Jonathan Keith Yost, 35, was arrested by officers from the Burbank Police Department on Feb. 13 after he allegedly used a series of spoofed phone numbers to send the threats in early January.
The threats, called in multiple times over the course of several days, prompted SAG-AFTRA to evacuate its offices on both coasts.
In Burbank, the threats prompted the studio to place its security staff on high alert and saw an increase of patrols in the area by the police department, according to Sgt. Derek Green.
In the threats sent to Warner Bros., Green said a man with a Middle Eastern accent called different employees on the lot claiming at different times there was a bomb at the studio or that there were several explosives hidden throughout the facility.
Explosives were never found at any of the locations.
Green said several agencies including Burbank police, the Los Angeles Police Department and the U.S. Secret Service were involved in investigating the threats.
Eventually investigators were able to trace the fake numbers back to someone who they believed was the source — Yost.
“This individual has allegedly been involved with all kinds of scams having to do with the motion-picture industry and acting,” Green said.
Last year, the Houston Chronicle reported that Yost allegedly scammed a San Antonio resident out of around $370,000 after falsely claiming to be a well-connected Hollywood insider.
He is also accused of scamming a church in North Carolina out of $9,000.
Although he couldn’t go into details, Green added that a witness was able to identify Yost as the person connected to the phone calls.
Green also said he is thought to have called Burbank police headquarters claiming he overheard four Middle Eastern men planning an attack on the city.
Authorities spent the last month searching for Yost, who was believed to have been traveling across different states, but officers with Burbank police tracked him down last week in the food court at Westfield Century City Mall and took him into custody.
Green said investigators don’t know what Yost’s ultimate goal was in making the calls, and they “don’t believe he ever intended to carry out any of the threats.”
Yost was released from custody on Wednesday after posting bail and is scheduled to appear in court on March 3.