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Woman in Conn. is charged in bomb threats to banks

Tried to hide job loss, police say

Police say Nicolina McLean confessed she lost her job a year ago and let the family bills pile up but did not tell her husband. Police say Nicolina McLean confessed she lost her job a year ago and let the family bills pile up but did not tell her husband.
By Dave Collins
Associated Press / September 30, 2011

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HARTFORD - A Connecticut woman who hid unemployment and money troubles from her husband for nearly a year phoned in bomb threats to banks and an insurance company to prevent him from asking questions, police said. She was arrested when an officer recognized her from a surveillance video he viewed while tracking one of the threats.

Nicolina McLean, 45, of Coventry, Conn., was charged this week with threatening two First Niagara Bank branches in Coventry, about 20 miles east of Hartford, and a third in neighboring Mansfield.

Police say McLean confessed that she lost her job a year ago and had let the couple’s bills pile up but did not tell her husband. He began realizing what was happening last week and planned to go to the bank.

“McLean said that she decided to do something to keep the banks closed,’’ the police report said. “She said that bomb scares were the only things she could think of to force the banks to close.’’

McLean was arraigned Tuesday and is set to return to court Oct. 24; she has not been able to post $45,000 bail. A clerk at Rockville Superior Court said records do not list a lawyer for her, and her husband, Mark McLean, did not return a phone message yesterday.

The events began Sept. 22, when a First Niagara Bank employee called 911 to report that a woman had just called and said a bomb would detonate that day or the next day.

The next morning, another employee at the same branch found a note in the night deposit box that read, “Be smart, do not open Friday or Saturday. You never know when someone will walk in or drive in with the bomb.’’

On Friday, a worker at another First Niagara branch called 911 to report that a woman had just called in a bomb threat.

Coventry Police Detective Michael Hicks said a third First Niagara branch in Mansfield and the Clark, Irvin & Genovese Insurance Co. in Manchester also received bomb threats those two days. State and Manchester police are investigating, and more charges are expected against McLean, police said.

The threats disrupted the businesses, which were evacuated but reopened a short time later after state police and dogs searched the buildings.

Yesterday, Hicks said that he recognized McLean and her sport utility vehicle from a liquor store’s surveillance video, which he viewed after discovering that one of the threatening calls was made from the shop.

When Hicks pulled McLean over Monday, members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force were following him in another vehicle as they investigated the case together. It is unclear whether McLean will face more serious federal terrorism charges. A spokesman for the Connecticut US attorney’s office declined to comment.

“It’s pretty bizarre,’’ Hicks said. “You feel bad for the lady in a way. But she made the wrong decision and has to be held responsible for that.’’