FBI warns 60 in Shawano of 'implied threat'

Gannett Wisconsin Media/November 13, 2008

Shawano - A religious sect based in nearby Wescott is connected to threats against 60 people, Shawano Police Chief Ed Whealon confirmed today.

The FBI notified 60 Shawano-area residents on Nov. 5 who were "potential victims of an implied threat" that authorities discovered during an investigation.

FBI spokesman Leonard Peace released no other information, citing an ongoing probe.

The sect, the Samanta Roy Institute of Science and Technology, owns millions of dollars of property in and around Shawano - including motels, gas stations and a go-kart track - and is headed by a man who has used several names in recent years, including Dr. R.C. Samantha Roy, Avraham Cohen and Raha Behera.

The group has identified itself in the past as The Disciples of the Lord Jesus.

The group's Web site says the goal of the nonprofit organization is to establish a world-class educational institute in the Shawano area.

Whealon said the threat list includes elected and public officials as well as residents.

Shawano Alderwoman Sandy Steinke said she was told she's on the list, but was not told the nature of the threat or how it was made.

"I'm concerned," Steinke said. "I'm very concerned for myself and my family. It's not a good feeling that someone out there wants to do you harm. That was the implication (of the threats).

"They just told us to be cautious."

Alderman Fred Ponschok said he was told his was one of the 60 names on the list.

He said he's not concerned.

"Not unless I would be informed (of something) by the police chief or other law enforcement folks," he said. "I'm not going to lose any sleep over this."

Ponschok said he was not surprised that the sect was at the root of the threats.

Shawano Mayor Lorna Marquardt confirmed Wednesday that she was notified by the FBI that she was one of the people threatened, but she declined comment.

Whealon provided no details about the nature of the threats or how they came to light, but said security at Shawano City Hall and the Shawano County Courthouse has been heightened.

"Because of the physical layout of our building, we felt it was prudent and necessary to have the public enter City Hall and the police department complex through the police department's doors so at least we get a look at to see who is coming in the building," he said.

"We have responsibilities to address this and work with the people that work in and around the city of Shawano, work in the courthouse and work here at City Hall," Whealon said.

"I think we owe it to our employees to be aware of what's going on and give them some feeling that we are aware of what's going on and we are taking some measures to ensure their security."

Whealon is asking Shawano residents to ratchet up awareness of their neighborhoods. He said living in a small town often allows people to relax and let their guard down.

"Basically what we're asking is to just raise your awareness level up be aware," Whealon said.

"If something doesn't look right, if something gives you bad vibes, hackles the hair on the back of your neck, call us and let us know about it and let us check it out."

Whealon refused to say whether he was on the list, but said he is not concerned for his safety. He appreciates that others might be.

"I understand and appreciate that some of the people on that list are not law enforcement officers and they view that at as a different thing," Whealon said.

"If myself or the sheriff thought there was anything else we needed to do to protect those people we'd certainly take that precaution."

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