It was generally a quiet Fourth of July weekend in the Rim Country.
Except at the Mazatzal Casino. Business was brisk as ever, plus there was a little added excitement.
The casino had three phone calls from a man threatening to detonate a bomb in the casino at midnight, July 5, if he was not given $12 million, according to Nathaniel Campbell, spokesman for the Tonto Apache Tribal Council.
Turns out, it was probably a wrong number.
He said the FBI and the anti-terrorism task force became involved and traced the calls to pay phones in Linden, N. J. The tribal authorities were told the casino's 800 number is very similar to the number of the Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City, N.J.
As a precaution, the security people at the casino searched purses, the facility and grounds.
Joe Tunno, director of security and surveillance for the casino, said the emergency response units of the Payson Police Department and Gila County Sheriff's Office were called in, including the GCSO bomb squad. When the search turned up nothing suspicious, the bomb squad determined it was not necessary to evacuate the casino.
Tunno said the same man has been calling the casino for about five years and the calls have been traced to a strip club in New Jersey. This is the first bomb threat he has made; past calls have been harassing.
New Jersey authorities are now staking out the club.
Patricia Lorka, a witness, said she saw officials searching the casino for about two hours.
Lorka said she and a group of about 10 people arrived at the casino around 5 p.m. Friday, July 5 for their weekly outing for the restaurant's fish fry. The women all had to have their purses checked.
When they saw the security people checking in, around and under tables in the restaurant, Lorka said they suspected there had been a bomb threat. Upon leaving the casino, Lorka said she asked if there had been a bomb threat.
"The security man had a little smirk on his face and told me I could think what I wanted, but he was not at liberty to say," she said. "How safe are we? I was surprised they didn't clear the place."