Federal authorities have charged a St. Louis man with making more than half a dozen bomb threats against Jewish community centers, schools and a Jewish history museum, an unsealed court document shows.
The man, Juan Thompson, made some of the threats in his own name and others in the name of a former girlfriend, apparently in an attempt to intimidate her, according to a federal complaint filed by the U.S. attorney's office in New York and unsealed Friday.
In one threat, made on Feb. 1 against a Jewish school in Farmington Hills, Michigan, the complaint said, Thompson claimed that he had placed two bombs in the school and was "eager for Jewish newton," an apparent reference to the December 2012 school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, in which a gunman killed 20 students and six school employees.
A news website, The Intercept, confirmed in a statement Friday that Thompson worked for the publication for a little over a year, until he was fired in January 2016 after it was discovered that he had fabricated sources and quotes in his articles.
The arrest comes amid heightened tension involving more than 100 threats that have been made against Jewish groups in dozens of states since the beginning of the year, which has led to a broad federal investigation. The threats, combined with recent vandalism at Jewish cemeteries in some states, have prompted fears of an increase in anti-Semitism.
Thompson is not believed to be responsible for the majority of threats made against Jewish centers around the country, according to FBI officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was continuing. Investigators are still trying to identify the person responsible for those threats, who the FBI officials say is using sophisticated technology to mask personal details, like identity and the origin of the internet-based calls.
Thompson, 31, made his threats "as part of a sustained campaign to harass and intimidate" the former girlfriend, and that harassment appeared to have begun shortly after their relationship ended last July, according to the complaint, which was signed by Christopher Mills, an FBI special agent.
Thompson made at least eight threats against Jewish centers nationwide as part of his campaign, the complaint said, citing Jewish community centers and schools in Dallas, San Diego, and Farmington Hills, New York.
According to the complaint, one threat, on Feb. 22, was made in a phone call to the Anti-Defamation League in New York. The caller, using an untraceable phone number and a tool that disguised his voice, said that there was C4, an explosive material, in the group's New York office, and that it would be "detonated within one hour." The office was immediately swept and no explosives were found, the complaint said.
Thompson, who was arrested Friday morning, was charged with one count of cyberstalking and was expected to be presented in federal court in St. Louis later on Friday, the office of Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a news release.
"Threats of violence targeting people and places based on religion or race whatever the motivation are unacceptable, un-American and criminal," Bharara said in a statement. "We are committed to pursuing and prosecuting those who foment fear and hate through such criminal threats."