School closed message at Hamilton High School in Beverlywood. REUTERS / Jonathan Alcorn
School closed message at Hamilton High School in Beverlywood. REUTERS / Jonathan Alcorn

A 21-year-old man in Romania has become a key figure in the investigation into emailed threats that led to the daylong closure of the Los Angeles Unified School District, but he said Friday he was surprised the email sent by an unknown person led to widespread school closures.

Vincent Canfield told CBS News he is from Augusta, Maine, but has been in Romania for about a week and a half. On his Twitter account, Canfield posted a copy of a subpoena he received from police in New York City, where school officials received a threat similar to the one received Tuesday by LAUSD officials.

New York officials determined the email threatening violence was a hoax, but LAUSD campuses were closed and more than 1,500 school sites were meticulously searched.

Canfield runs an email server that includes a word that can be used as a pornographic reference to male genitalia. The threatening email was routed through that server and contained the pornographic reference in the address. Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, said earlier this week that the word helped New York officials debunk the email as a hoax.

With the investigation continuing, Canfield told CBS the email server has been locked.

“The account can’t be logged into,” he said. “It means that the user can’t send email (and) can’t delete anything. So the account is pretty much just frozen at this point in time.”

Canfield’s Twitter page is filled with discussions about the school threats.

Authorities said Tuesday that the emailed threat — which was also sent to various other cities — was traced back to Frankfurt, Germany. Canfield said that’s where his hosting service is based, but it’s not necessarily an indicator of where the emails of any of its approximately 60,000 user accounts are sent.

Canfield said he did send location information for the threat account to New York City officials.

On his Twitter page, Canfield wrote, “I have no sympathy with the attacker but if a few emails from my meme email provider can shut down your SD, that’s an administration problem.”

The emailed message warned that pressure cooker bombs were placed in backpacks, and that, “every school in (the) Los Angeles school district is being targeted.” It also warned that dozens of people were prepared to take part in the attack.

Canfield said he was surprised Los Angeles shut down schools after receiving an email from a service often used for jokes and pranks.

“C’mon, it says (expletive) in the name, and you’re going to shut down a school district as a result?” Canfield said.”Take a look at the domain name, look at the site, look at where it comes from. Look at where my users are from.”

Though the subpoena sent by the New York Police Department warns Canfield “not to disclose or notify any customer or third party of the existence of this subpoena,” he posted it on social media. He also posted two audio recordings of phone calls he says he made to police personnel, in which they acknowledge that the subpoena was not confidential.

—City News Service

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