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SAN DIEGO -- A man accused of making a phony threat of a nuclear attack on Boston earlier this year has been arrested in Mexico, authorities said Monday.

The scare in January prompted authorities to alert the public and to increase security at the airport and on the subway. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney skipped President George W. Bush's inauguration to return to Boston. Within days, the FBI called it a false alarm.

Mexican authorities arrested Jose Ernesto Beltran Quinonez, 34, early Saturday in Mexicali, a border city about 120 miles east of San Diego, the FBI said.

A three-count indictment charges Beltran with perpetrating a terrorist hoax and making false statements about an alleged plot to smuggle a nuclear warhead into the U.S. from Mexico.

U.S. authorities expect he will be extradited within 60 days, said FBI spokeswoman Jan Caldwell. He would be tried in San Diego.

The indictment alleges that Beltran called California Highway Patrol dispatchers Jan. 17 to report that a nuclear warhead would be smuggled within four days through a tunnel connecting Mexicali and Calexico, Calif.

Beltran allegedly said that several of his associates were planning to place the warhead in Boston.

Beltran later denied making the threat and suggested that someone else called the 911 U.S. emergency service from his cell phone, according to the indictment, which was returned in July by a grand jury.

In January, Beltran was taken into custody in Mexico in connection with the case, but was released without any charges being filed. He had eluded authorities since an arrest warrant was issued in May, Caldwell said.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
 
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