A joke involving a fake bomb ended up with a sheriff's deputy's resignment

Oyin Balogun
Jan 10, 2019
09:43 P.M.
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The sheriff’s administration building had to be evacuated because of a potential bomb threat, which was later determined to be a fluke.


James Piper, a 59-year-old patrol deputy in Pinellas County, Florida, cracked what can be deemed an expensive joke which eventually cost him his job. 


Through the interoffice mail, he sent a package to a sheriff’s office lieutenant, Joseph Gerretz, 46. The lieutenant received the box at his desk at about 3 pm on Tuesday, January 8 and proceeded to open it. 

It contained a red, cylinder-shaped object with protruding wires, insulated with plastic packaging material and an accompanying message ‘BOOM.’ Sensing imminent danger, Gerretz, who has been in service since 1993, immediately vacated his office and notified others in the building of the potential bomb threat. 


This led to a partial evacuation of the station at 10750 Ulmerton Road in Largo.

A K9 bomb detection dog and its handler were called in to assess the threat further, but the dog did not alert to the package, sheriff’s officials said. Officers from the Tampa Police Department Bomb Squad also showed up on the scene, and it was later concluded to be a just a toy which does not pose any threat.


Piper, after seeing the turmoil he'd caused, and subsequent evacuations sent out by the sheriff, Bob Gualtieri; contacted his supervisor and admitted the whole thing was a prank orchestrated by him. The supervisor notified the chain of command of his admission. He after that tendered his resignation, effective immediately.

Piper had been a deputy since 1982 but left the service in 2015. Only to be later rehired in 2017.


This is not the first time enforcement officials have messed up in their line of duty. In August 2018, a former Metropolitan Transportation Authority personnel was indicted in a scam. 

The official purchased $60,000 worth of iPhones with taxpayers’ money, which he then sold for personal gain. Angel Barbosa was the chief procurement officer for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. He was charged with grand theft; as well as falsifying personal details in official documents which permitted him to a higher salary with the establishment. 

Barbosa, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges. He left the job ‘as soon as we became aware of allegations of impropriety,’ an MTA spokesperson said.

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