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Preston McWaters: Man who made Palm Beach County bomb threats pleads guilty

Posted at 9:28 AM, Jul 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-13 19:48:25-04

The Georgia man accused of making bomb threats to locations in Palm Beach County pleaded guilty to six federal charges Wednesday morning.

Preston McWaters, 25, faces up to 30 years in prison, according to his defense attorney.

One of the threats McWaters pleaded guilty to today involved Jupiter High School on February 2, 2016.

“I got the robo call, saying this was going on,” explained Kevin Hendrix, whose daughter was a freshman at Jupiter High School last year.

Hendrix dropped everything and raced to the school. He used his cell phone to record video of dozens of parents just like him desperately looking for their children.

“We waited a couple of hours, it was that long. It was a big ordeal and process, but it's your kids,” he said.

The threat turned out to be a hoax.

Authorities arrested McWaters in March. Detectives said the 25-year-old made phony threats across Palm Beach County out of jealousy. Police believe McWaters hoped to frame the boyfriend of a woman he liked who moved from Georgia to Jupiter.

Wearing a blue jail jump suit, with cuffs around his wrists and ankles, McWaters  pleaded guilty to six federal charges. His lawyer said nine others will be dropped at sentencing.

The charges relate to incidents from December 2015 to March 2016. He pleaded guilty to four counts of transmitting threats through interstate communications and two counts of conveying false information regarding explosive devices. 

Those incidents are related to threats at Palm Beach Central High School, Jupiter High School, Beacon Cove Intermediate School and the West Palm Beach offices of Kimley-Horn and Associates.

The school district’s Chief Communications and Engagement Officer Amity Chandler released this statement:

"We're proud of the law enforcement work that resulted in the apprehension and prosecution of the individual responsible for the threats. Today's ruling is a reminder that threats to our students have serious consequences that will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Hendrix hopes this arrest will make people think twice about putting parents through the chaos he experienced. 

“You gotta know it's gonna catch up to you and there are consequences for it,” he said.

McWaters is due back in federal court in Fort Lauderdale on September 23 for a formal sentencing.

 

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