WASHINGTON - The Hallmark Corporation has asked the Department of Homeland Security to declare a code red for Valentine's Day following the discovery of an Internet suicide pact scheduled for Monday February 14. The pact, which is known to involve at least two dozen women in the United States and Canada, was hatched in a Yahoo chat room called "Virtual Suicide" by a man whose user name was Anti-Cupid.
"Valentine's Day is second only to Christmas among revenue-producing occasions," said Willis McCann, director of Hallmark's irrepressible Shoebox Division. "Any plot that would remove potential customers from our card-buying demographic has to be taken seriously. We must not let our guard down simply because the authorities have one individual in custody. That is why we have requested the code red."
The individual in custody was apprehended yesterday when police in Klamath Falls, Oregon, acting on a tip, raided the house of Kaye and Gerald Krein Sr. The Krein's son, Gerald Jr., also known as Anti-Cupid, was arrested, and his computer was impounded. Krein, 26, was taken to the police station, where he was charged under a federal restraint of trade statute that makes it a felony to "suborn any individual to commit an act that would deprive a legitimate corporation of revenue."
According to police, chat room participants who had signed on to Anti-Cupid's pact agreed to log in on Valentine's Day and commit suicide while remaining in contact over the Internet by means of Web cams. Authorities do not know yet if the suicide pact, which was limited to persons with broadband Internet connections, is legitimate-or exactly how many people are involved. They are treating the matter seriously, nevertheless, because of the potential loss of revenue and because one of the parties involved is a mother who also plans to kill her two young children.
A source close to the investigation described Krein as a disgruntled freelance greeting card writer who had recently been fired by Hallmark. Krein was allegedly dismissed when he designed a Shoebox Valentine that read, "Be my Valentine or I'll kill myself."
In related news, Hallmark has announced that it will soon add a Hemlock line to its collection of greeting cards.