A Maine man now living in Romania says he has given investigators information about the threats that shut down the Los Angeles school system this week – though whether that will help them catch the culprit remains uncertain.

Vincent Canfield, 21, who runs an email hosting service apparently used to send the messages, said Friday he has provided what information he has to law enforcement authorities investigating the anonymous threats to the Los Angeles and New York City school systems, which now appear to be a hoax.

Canfield called the email threats “despicable.”

“Not only is it disgusting to see it happen, it’s really a blatant abuse of my service,” he said.

“It’s an unfortunate reality that in the last couple months, my site has been used more and more for abuses of this type. The last two years my site has run and not a single request from law enforcement has come for user data until November of this year and since then, I’ve received five. It’s really annoying.”

Canfield’s email hosting service and domain name were used by the person sending the email. However, it’s not clear if the information he turned over will lead to the culprit.


That may depend on what additional steps the sender took to hide his or her identity.

Los Angeles authorities shut down school for 640,000 students on Tuesday. New York City did not, in part because the threat spelled “Allah” with a lowercase “a,” causing authorities to question whether the email sender really was an Islamist terrorist who had a bad high school experience.

Unlike New York, Los Angeles also had the close proximity of the Dec. 2 San Bernardino mass shooting to consider in deciding whether to shut down school.

Canfield has lived in Augusta for the last two years and started his email hosting service there but would not divulge where he is originally from. He moved to Bucharest, Romania, a week and a half ago because, he said, he can do his job as a network administrator from anywhere in the world. Bucharest has fast and inexpensive Internet and he can enjoy a better standard of living there than in the United States, he said. He said he makes no money from the email hosting service that was subpoenaed, but is paid for administering other networks.

He said he founded the email hosting service two years ago when people began asking him if they could use his email domain name. Now he has 62,000 subscribers.

“I had no idea it would get as big as it’s gotten. Certainly I had no idea I’d be the focus of this media attention because people have used my site in this way,” he said.


People can sign up for Canfield’s email hosting service without providing personal information. His computers retain about seven days’ worth of data on an account, including when and ostensibly where a user logged in, where the user sent email and where it was received from.

Canfield received a subpoena from New York City authorities on Tuesday for records about the origins of the email threat against that city’s schools. He says he complied with the subpoena but would not say Friday where the emails originated or whether or not the person used a proxy server – another technique used to hide a person’s identity online.

Canfield posted the subpoena as well as emails and audio records of his interactions with law enforcement on his website, saying it is part of his transparency policy.

Earlier this week, Canfield told the San Francisco Chronicle that he believes authorities are working under the theory that the same person who sent the threatening email to Los Angeles also sent the New York threat. Canfield also told the newspaper that he is upfront with people signing up for his service that what little information he has will be turned over to law enforcement when requested.

Sgt. Laurie Northrup of the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit said that many Internet providers that are selling anonymity locate in countries outside of the United States because authorities there will not enforce a U.S. subpoena for records. That has proved an obstacle in some Maine cases, she said.

Even with records from an Internet service provider, there are ways sophisticated users can create obstacles for law enforcement – such as using proxy servers, which give a deceptive IP address that does not correspond to the user’s actual location.


“There’s just a lot of ways to hide what you do,” Northrup said. “All you can do is hope they make a mistake somewhere else.”

The Computer Crimes Unit was able to track the threatening email that shut down Windham schools for three days last year but it wasn’t easy, she said. Justin Woodbury hid his identity by creating a dummy email account that used an online identity based in the Czech Republic. Ultimately, police obtained an Internet Protocol address associated with the Baxter Academy for Technology and Science in Portland, which Woodbury attended.

Following an agreement in which he pleaded guilty to terrorizing, Woodbury is serving two years’ probation after spending 6½ months in the Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland.

Canfield said on Twitter that his attorney is Jesselyn Radack, who also has represented National Security Agency whistleblower Eric Snowden.

“I certainly think the police understand – and rightfully so – that I’m a service provider. … This wasn’t my fault at all,” Canfield said.

He hopes the abuses of his email server stop before he has to shut it down.

“Here’s hoping it dies down and these people do go and do something else with their life, and I can go back to laughing at immature jokes on the Internet,” he said.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.