Feds charge Bellevue doctor with airline bomb threats
By KATE HOWARD
A local doctor who works in a Spanish-speaking medical practice is in federal custody after he admitted calling in three bomb threats to a Northwest Airlines jetliner, prompting the plane's return to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Wednesday.
Kou Wei Chiu of Bellevue is scheduled to appear in federal court for a detention hearing today on a charge of making a false threat against an aircraft. He faces up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.
Chiu graduated from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in 2003 and works at Medicos Para La Familia on Nolensville Pike. Workers at the medical clinic declined to comment.
According to the federal complaint against Chiu filed Thursday, Chiu checked luggage on to Northwest Airlines flight 980 under the name of a co-worker on Wednesday, but he tried to board the plane after the door was closed and wasn't allowed to enter.
Chiu admitted using a pay phone to call 911 and made two more calls when he saw the plane was still leaving the gate, according to the federal complaint.
He told airport police he was on anti-depressant medication and had been without it for a few days, although he said he did take the medication on the day of his flight.
Passengers remained on the plane for more than an hour while police tried to determine how extensive a security sweep was needed.
About 3 p.m., passengers were taken off the plane and all luggage was removed so bomb-sniffing dogs could search for any traces of explosives, airport spokeswoman Terri-Ann Betancourt said.
Police confirmed there was no bomb on board hours later, after bomb-sniffing dogs searched the plane, Betancourt said.
Northwest Airlines estimated the losses in fuel and other expenses from the grounded flight at $70,000.
____________________________________________________________________________________________Paragraph Paragraph 16 reads: "He told police he usually loses things, 'gets confused, but I haven't done anything like this.'"
NASHVILLE, Tenn.- A Bellevue man is accused of telling authorities at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport that there was a bomb aboard a Northwest Airlines jetliner Wednesday.
The threats prompted the plane's return to the airport.
Kou Wei Chiu was charged with one count of false information and threats at a hearing in federal court Thursday.
Chiu was arrested Wednesday for allegedly making multiple bomb threats to the flight bound for Memphis
He called shortly after missing the flight.
Chiu is a licensed doctor and a 2003 graduate of Vanderbilt's Medical School. He works in at a family clinic on Nolensville Pike and at a doctor's office in Murfreesboro.
Police said Chiu called in a bomb threat from an airport pay phone.
"He made the first phone call, then he looked out the window to see if the plane was still and he noticed that his call had what he called, no affect, the plane was still leaving," said Seattle Assistant District Attorney Mike Lang.
Police said Chiu then called in two more threats in an attempt to stop the Memphis-bound flight.
That plane eventually turned around. Dogs searched the luggage on board.
The incident delayed other flights and cost Northwest Airlines $70,000.
Meanwhile, a fellow passenger identified Chiu to police as the caller.
"And then he gave them a full confession to that what he had done," Lang said.
At the Seattle federal courthouse Thursday, the 31-year-old doctor listened to the evidence against him.
Court documents said. Chiu takes anti-depressant medicine, which he said he didn't have for days while in Seattle on business.
He told police he usually loses things, "gets confused, but I haven't done anything like this."
At Chiu's Bellevue home, his dogs barked, but no one answered the door late Thursday afternoon when a NewsChannel 5 reporter sought an interview. Chiu and his wife have only lived in this neighborhood for a few months.
The state said Chiu works out of an office in Murfreesboro. He also practices at this family clinic on Nolensville Pike in Nashville. No one at either office consented to comment on their colleague's arrest.
Chiu is a 2003 graduate from Vanderbilt Medical School. He recently came back to the university to continue his graduate studies.
Reports said Chiu was traveling with two women who made the flight. Police escorted them off when the plane came back in Seattle. They haven't been charged.
While in the King County Jail, Chiu stayed in the mental ward area. He is expected to appear in a Seattle courtroom Friday.
Chiu faces up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine if he's convicted of making false threats.