US man faces charges after making hoax claim of Sochi attack

PHILADELPHIA (REUTERS) - A US man who tipped off the FBI that his stepson planned an attack at the Sochi Olympics faces criminal charges after admitting he made up the claim in an attempt to recover a safe, US officials said on Friday.

Federal investigators said the man sparked a search in the United States and Russia after he called an FBI tipline to falsely claim he overheard his stepson having a Skype chat in Russian in which he made threatening remarks.

"He's gonna kill somebody or a lot of people," the man, 69-year-old Lawrence Reinhard of suburban Philadelphia told the tipline in a Jan. 15 call, according to court papers filed by FBI agent Michael Bantner.

"Somebody needs to catch him before he does something horrible in Russia ... to the American embassy or the Olympics that are taking place in two weeks," Mr Reinhard said, according to court papers. "That's what concerns me the most, because he's that crazy."

Mr Reinhard told the tipline he had seen bomb-making instructions on screen and believed his stepson, a Russian national with a US green card, was already in Russia. The report prompted Federal Bureau of Investigation officials to fan out to interview the stepson's friends and associates, while Russian security services attempted to locate the suspect, according to court papers.

FBI officials then learned that Mr Reinhard had accused his stepson of stealing a safe containing guns, jewelry and cash, and asked why he had not reported the threat to the local police investigating that crime.

At that point, Mr Reinhard began to change his story, investigators contend. He told them he overheard the words "bomb" and "Sochi," and later admitted to exaggerating some details in an effort to get better results in finding his stepson, who he believed was responsible for the theft of the safe, prosecutors charge. He said he "may have had a few drinks" before making the tip call, they charged.

FBI agents located the stepson at a New York-area airport, where he had been headed to Russia to visit a sick relative. He was cooperative and allowed agents to inspect his luggage. He was not detained after questioning.

Mr Reinhard was charged with lying to federal investigators and making a hoax bomb threat and released on bail after his arrest. He is due in court for a hearing on Feb 14.

His attorney did not immediately return a call seeking comment.