A man who worked at Northeastern University has been arrested and charged in connection withhe said occurred at the school in September that has since been deemed a hoax, authorities said Tuesday.
Jason Duhaime, who at the time was employed as the new technology manager and director of Northeastern’s Immersive Media Lab, has been charged with one count each of conveying false information and hoaxes related to an explosive device and making false and materially fictitious statements in a matter within the executive branch of the government of the United States, according to charging documents released Tuesday.
Duhaime was arrested in Texas without incident on Tuesday and will appear before a judge in San Antonio later in the day, Rachael Rollins, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, said at a press conference announcing the charges.
Charging documents allege that Duhaime first called 911 at about 7 p.m. on September 13 to report that a package that had been mailed to the university exploded when he opened it, sending “very sharp” objects flying out that injured his hand and arms. He also said a threatening letter was found inside the package, the documents alleged.
The letter, included in the charging documents, alleges that the lab was working with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and the U.S. government to, among other things, “get us to all live inside a virtual f***** up world.” It also threatened violence unless the lab took its operations down.
But when authorities arrived on the scene, the documents said, they did not find any damage to the package or letter indicating an explosion had occurred. They also did not find any of the small, sharp objects Duhaime said flew out of the package, and his injuries did not correspond with what he would have received in an explosion.
The documents say Duhaime repeatedly denied fabricating the story when speaking to authorities, even as more evidence surfaced that cast doubt on his story, including contradictory statements from a student who was present at the time. He also told investigators that he formally lives in Texas with his girlfriend, despite working full-time at the university, and sleeps in the Lab or his office when he’s in Massachusetts, the documents said.
When authorities searched his office on September 14, they found four computers — one of which was later found to contain a “word-for-word, electronic copy” of the threatening letter in a backup folder, the documents said. The letter was allegedly created hours before the explosion was reported.
Authorities said that they’re continuing to investigate a potential motive. They also condemned the alleged crimes, noting the massive law enforcement response and the emotional damage a fake bomb threat causes in a city like Boston, which is nearing the 10-year anniversary of the marathon bombing.
Duhaime “wanted to be the victim — but instead victimized his entire community,” Joseph Bonavolonta, the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Field Office, said at the press conference.