Beaumont man arrested for ExxonMobil bomb threat

Published 7:07 pm Thursday, June 16, 2016

BEAUMONT — A Beaumont man has been arrested on federal charges of a false bomb threat.

Lance Giovanni Fontenot, 23, was taken into custody about 12 hours after a bomb threat was reported at ExxonMobil in Beaumont Wednesday.

Brit Featherston, first U.S. attorney Eastern District of Texas, led a press conference Thursday at the U.S. Attorney’s Office regarding the incident which led to response from local and federal authorities.

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“Law enforcement talks al threats seriously,” Featherston said.

Authorities believe Fontenot was a personal connection with someone who works at the refinery.

“There were personal motivations,” Featherston said.

Local industry have liaisons with local enforcement and the Joint Terrorism Task Force and a quick phone call was all that was needed to begin the investigation. The incident began around 10 a.m. and Fontenot was taken into custody around 10 p.m. Wednesday. Featherston said the suspect acted alone.

An investigation led authorities to Fontenot. He was questioned by federal agents and made a statement regarding the incident.

If convicted, Fontenot faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

During the tense moments, officials make decisions quickly and they must determine if calling for an evacuation of the immediate area would be detrimental to the public or not.

Beaumont Police Chief Jimmy Singletary said calls such as Wednesday’s happen “quite a bit” and some may not recognize the seriousness of the crime. If someone makes a bomb threat there are a number of officers and agencies that respond. This is not something they take lightly, he said.

Featherston said cooperation from private industry was paramount in the case. He also noted Fontenot is innocent until proven guilty.

FBI Resident Agent in Charge Willie Johnson said the agency wants to ensure the safety of the citizens of Beaumont and surrounding areas and take all threats seriously. He asked the public remain vigilant and report all suspicious activity to authorities.

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and Joint Terrorism Task Force responded initially to the call and a suspicious package was located at the B&P Gate. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms was called to assist along with the Port Arthur Fire Department’s bomb dog.

The package was checked and X-rayed by the Houston Police Department Bomb Squad who was called in by ATF. No device was found and the all-clear was given.

“ExxonMobil Beaumont thanks the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and other local, state and federal authorities for their quick action and thorough response to today’s incident,” Todd Spitler, media spokesman for ExxonMobil, said in a press release.

The case is being investigated by the Joint Terrorism Task Force including agents with the FBI, Beaumont Police Department, ATF, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Services and the Port Arthur Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lesley Woods.

Mary Meaux: 409-721-2429

Twitter: @MaryMeauxPANews