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Don't use Twitter to stage a hoax; N.J. teen could face charges

October 04, 2012|By Tina Susman
  • An image from surveillance video provided by the Union County, N.J., prosecutor's office shows Kara Alongi at the Rahway, N.J., train station.
An image from surveillance video provided by the Union County, N.J., prosecutor's… (Union County, N.J., prosecutor's…)

A teenage girl who vanished -- after touching off a firestorm of online panic with a cryptic tweet indicating she was in danger -- is now back home. Police concluded the tweet was a hoax and picked her up from a highway rest stop.

It was not immediately clear if Kara Alongi, 16, would face charges in connection with the false tweet, which led police in her town of Clark, N.J., to be swamped with thousands of calls from worried people who feared she had been abducted. “There is somone in my hour ecall 911” read the tweet, which Alongi sent at 5:12 p.m. Sunday.

Despite the typo, people who spotted the message concluded that someone was in the teenager's house and that she was in need of help.

While Alongi used social media to announce her alleged brush with danger, she relied on a more traditional method to call for help when the adventure became too much to handle. On Tuesday afternoon, she dialed 911 from a phone at a Burger King at a New Jersey Turnpike rest stop about 100 miles from her home.

Police picked her up, and she was reunited with her family Wednesday morning after being taken to a hospital for a routine check to ensure she was not injured.

But the case is not over.

"Possibly she can face charges down the road," the Clark police chief, Alan Scherb, told reporters Wednesday, adding that "at the very minimum," those charges could include creating a false public alarm.

Scherb attributed the hoax's effects to social media, saying that state troopers, railroad officials in New Jersey and New York, local police, and sheriff's offices across New Jersey were involved in the search.

"It just snowballed worldwide, and we had to follow up on every lead that came through -- whether it was valid or bogus," he said. "We plan on talking to her real soon."

Alongi's hoax quickly unraveled after phone records and surveillance cameras showed that she had called a taxi to her home shortly after posting her chilling tweet -- and had then headed to the train station. It's not clear where she went from there, although she bought a ticket to New York City.

In an interview with the Star-Ledger newspaper, before her daughter resurfaced, Kim Alongi said Kara had not given any indication she planned to run away. She said the family, including Kara's 11-year-old twin brothers and her father, were planning to go out Sunday evening to watch a hockey game. But Kara bowed out at the last minute.

"She had a headache, so she told me she was going to lay down," Kim Alongi said. "When I left, she was resting in her bed with a headache."

When the family came home that night, Kara was gone.

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