US authorities say a man in Peru sent more than 150 hoax bomb threats to US schools, synagogues and other public buildings after teenage girls refused to send him explicit pictures. Peruvian authorities arrested Eddie Manuel Nunez Santos in Lima on Tuesday, the US Justice Department said. Mr Nunez Santos, 33, is accused of sending the threats earlier this month.
The hoax bomb threats caused evacuations and other disruptions. Posing as a teenage boy named “Lucas”, investigators say Mr Nunez Santos, a website developer, communicated with teenage girls on an online gaming platform. Prosecutors say he asked at least two of them, including a 15-year-old, for explicit pictures and threatened to bomb their schools when they refused.
On 15 September, the FBI began receiving reports of emailed threats to various public buildings in New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Arizona, and Alaska. Threats were sent to at least three synagogues in the New York area during Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year holiday. One claimed that pipe bombs in the building “will blow up in a few hours” and “a lot of innocent people will die.”
Two days later, schools in Pennsylvania started to receive threats, one of which resulted in the evacuation of more than 1,100 students across 20 different schools. Airports, hospitals, and a shopping mall were also targeted. As a result of the emails, prosecutors say, police were deployed, schools were evacuated and closed, flights were delayed and a hospital was locked down.
Investigators were able to trace emails, phone numbers and IP addresses linked to the bomb threats with Mr Nunez Santos’ work email, prosecutors say. “The defendant’s relentless campaign of false bomb threats caused an immediate mobilisation by federal and state authorities, diverting critical law enforcement and public safety resources, and caused fear in hundreds of communities across this country,” US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement.
“The defendant allegedly engaged in this reprehensible and socially destructive conduct in a twisted attempt to retaliate against teenage girls who refused his requests for nude and sexually explicit photographs.” Five charges against Mr Nunez Santos were unsealed on Thursday, including counts of sending threatening and hoax messages, attempted sexual exploitation of a child and attempted receipt of child pornography. Court documents did not list a lawyer for Mr Nunez Santos, who could not be reached for comment.