by Carla Occaso
MONTPELIER — Early on the morning of Tuesday, May 30, a daycare worker found a threatening note on the fax machine. The note said if the recipient did not send money, the building and environs would be attacked. Another worker at the Little Lambs Early Care Center on Country Club Road immediately called 9-1-1, according to a letter issued to parents dated June 26 from Kathryn Seaver Clark, director of operations.
The letter was sent to The Bridge on condition of anonymity.
Children, ages six weeks to three years, had not yet arrived for the day.
While Clark’s letter did not describe the actual threat, according to Montpelier Police Department Captain Neil Martel, “It was a bomb threat. It said if you don’t provide us with money, we’ll blow the whole block up.” It came across on fax machine sent via Western Union.
Two officers had responded by 7:28 a.m. and did a thorough walk-through at the daycare center and adjacent buildings, said Martel by phone to The Bridge June 27. Police found no evidence of explosives or bombs. Martel said police did everything they could and concluded “it didn’t appear to be a threat.” Several reasons caused them to think it was a hoax. The wording of the letter was very general and did not identify the center. It was also worded in a way that appeared to be coming from a non-native English speaker. Martel said he suspected it was sent by fax to a whole bunch of random fax numbers and just happened to arrive in the daycare. Also, the passport linked to the Western Union fax was from Brazil.
It included directions on wiring money to a Western Union account in Chicago, Illinois. Western Union and PayPal are the “method of choice” by scammers trying to get money, Martel said, adding that this kind of threat as a means of trying to get money is somewhat common and tough to trace.
“The people in charge of the daycare and did what they had to do. (They) reached out to the board people,” according to Martel. They decided to keep the daycare open.
The Montpelier Police Department checked with the Attorney General’s office to see if similar reports had come through, but got a negative response. Also, police did not receive word from any other Montpelier organizations falling victim to the same hoax, but, in the past, local schools have had bomb threats that wound up to be unfounded.
In a brief phone conversation between The Bridge and Little Lamb’s Clark, Clark said the event had been determined a “fax virus.” She was in Italy when it happened, but heard that police thought it was a hoax right away. “Had our fax not been turned on, we would not have gotten it,” she said, but then she cut the conversation short, saying she felt uncomfortable talking further about the topic.
The effect on families upon learning of the threat apparently prompted an apology from the center, according to the June 26 letter, which states:
“Dear Little Lambs Families,
“This letter is to follow up on the events of 5/30/17. I would like to apologize that in my absence a letter was not sent to our families outlining what had actually taken place at the center and I am sorry that you heard about it in very informal, haphazard ways rather than from the leadership of the school. Typically, in the event that something of note happens during the day which involves the safety or security of children or could cause distress to families, it is our practice to communicate it immediately and I want to reassure you that it will be done that way in the future. …”
“ … The chair of the Board of Trustees and the building owner were contacted. The building owner conducted his own walk through of the property, and all parties agreed that Little Lambs should remain open. The Little Lambs staff worked together to provide a calm environment for the children through an uneasy and challenging situation.”
“It is always difficult when the challenges of the world are mirrored so close to home, and we are grateful for your calm and trust during that stressful day. The safety and security of your children is our highest priority, and we strive to keep their peaceful rhythm regular if possible.”
“Thank you and I apologize again for the tardiness of this notification.”
Kathryn Seaver Clark
Director of Operations”
“Orchard Valley’s Little Lambs Early Care Center opened in September 2016 and is located on Country Club Road in Montpelier. Little Lambs operates year-round, five days a week, from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Children may be enrolled for 2, 3, or 5 days per week. Our youngest children begin as infants in the Rosebud Room and move up to the next room as they age and achieve developmental milestones.”