A Turkish couple living in Riverhead who were arrested in connection with email messages describing an imaginary plot to blow up the Jewish Center of the Hamptons entered not guilty pleas in East Hampton Justice Town Court on Friday.
The alleged threats, which they appeared to have made up in an attempt to ensnare a third person with whom they had a dispute, indicated the attack would be during the month of Ramadan, which began on June 28.
The pair was seized by agents from the Department of Homeland Security at Kennedy Airport late Thursday as they arrived on a flight from Turkey.
Asli Dincer, 44, and Melih Dincer, 30, both of Riverhead, were questioned by border agents at Terminal One and turned over to East Hampton Village detectives, who placed them under arrest.
They were arraigned in East Hampton Town Justice Court on Friday and charged with making a terror threat, making a false report of such an incident (both felonies), and two misdemeanor charges, menacing and conspiracy.
According to the complaint, the two "sent three emails to the director of the Jewish Center of the Hamptons, making a baseless terroristic threat of the imminent commission of a bombing with intent to commit murder."
"One must deal with these things as very serious threats," Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman of the Jewish Center said on Friday.
Rabbi Zimmerman said he alerted the police as soon as the first email was received and that East Hampton Village police then made contact with the F.B.I.
Both pleaded not guilty through their attorney, Andrew Wolk of Ronkonkoma, who declined to speak to reporters.
East Hampton Town Justice Steven Tekulsky set bail at $50,000 apiece. However, the Department of Homeland Security ordered that they remain in custody.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation became involved in the case early on, as part of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, along with the Suffolk Police Department and New York State police after the temple received the first threat on May 28. Two more emails from the couple were received by the center, one on June 3, and the last on June 8.
Assets of the East Hampton Village police were utilized by the F.B.I. as part of the investigation. An East Hampton Village police cruiser was parked in Wainscott on the shoulder of the eastbound side of Montauk Highway for several weeks. Most East Hampton Village police cruisers have license plate readers on board. Ultimately, the F.B.I. determined that the threats themselves were baseless.
The emails were written in the form of a tip, naming others who were planning to blow up the center. Chief Larsen would not comment on the identities of those allegedly named by the couple as being part of the conspiracy, though he did say that they were also foreign nationals.
According to court papers, in statements made by the couple to agents at Kennedy Airport both admitted to sending the emails, with revenge against those named appearing to be the motive.
"Did you send these emails," Ms. Dincer was asked.
"Yes sir, I did it," she said.
"Why," the agent asked.
"He tried to mess up my life by saying bad things about me to the old man," she said.
Mr. Dincer was asked the same questions, according to the court papers.
"Yes, I made them up," he allegedly said about the emails. "I hate this guy. He tried to ruin our lives."
"She had nothing to do with it. I sent it from an Internet café," he said.
Mr. Dincer also admitted to sending an email about the made-up plot to the F.B.I, which led to the false report charge.
The couple apparently could have been arrested sooner, but had been in Turkey for several weeks.
"All the authorities have been so helpful," Rabbi Zimmerman said. "People should know that they are protected," he said.
Correction:The Dincers were held on $50,000 bail, not $25,000 bail as previously reported.