Man Arrested for Role in Number of Bomb Threats Against Jewish Institutions, FBI Says

Juan Thompson, a former reporter, allegedly made threats as part of feud with his ex, calling Jewish groups to tell them she was behind them; investigation into the more than 100 threats continues.

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Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department K-9 officers search the Jewish Community Center of Southern Nevada after an employee received a suspicious phone call that led about 10 people to evacuate the building on February 27, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department K-9 officers search the Jewish Community Center of Southern Nevada after an employee received a suspicious phone call that led about 10 people to evacuate the Credit: Ethan Miller/AFP
Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon

WASHINGTON - A Missouri man has been arrested for his alleged role in at least eight bomb threats made against several other Jewish institutions and the ADL, the FBI said on Friday, as the investigation into the more than 100 other threats continued.

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According to the FBI, the suspect is 31-year-old Juan Thompson from St. Louis, Missouri. Thompson was a reporter for The Intercept, but was fired after publishing false reports. He will also be questioned about his role in a recent attack on a St. Louis cemetery, local reports said.

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A statement by U.S. prosecutors in New York said he has been charged with cyberstalking for his alleged role in the bomb scares. He allegedly made some of the bomb threats in his ex-girlfriend's name in an attempt to harass her, a federal complaint alleged.

There have been over 190 allegedly anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. in the past six weeks, including over 90 bomb threats called in to 73 Jewish institutions in 30 states and one Canadian province in five separate waves. Thompson was not said to be responsible for all of them.

A Missouri police official also said Thompson will also be questioned about the recent desecration of a Jewish cemetery. University City police Lt. Fredrick Lemons told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that local detectives will question him about the 154 headstones toppled at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in the St. Louis suburb.

The ADL said earlier it was told by the FBI, the New York Police Department and New York State Police about the arrest.

190 anti-Semitic incidents across the U.S. in 6 weeks

The ADL's national offices in New York received a bomb threat from an anonymous caller on February 22, amid a spate of such calls made to Jewish organizations, synagogues and community centers across the United States.

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Over the past couple of months, there have been five waves of bomb threats aimed at Jewish institutions in 30 U.S. states and three recent events of vandalism at Jewish cemeteries.

Relentless harassment

Based on Thompson's Twitter account, which provided some of the evidence cited in the criminal complaint, the defendant appears to be a former reporter for The Intercept, a news website focused on national security.Thompson was fired from the website last year for allegedly fabricating quotes and sources, The Intercept said in February 2016.

According to the complaint, Thompson dated his ex-girlfriend until last summer, when they broke up. The following day, her boss received an email purporting to be from a national news organization saying that she'd been pulled over for drunken driving.

The harassment got worse from there, federal officials said. The Anti-Defamation League received an email on Feb. 21 that said she was behind the bomb threats to JCCs and there'd be more the next day. On Feb. 22, it received a phoned-in bomb threat.

He also claimed she was responsible for placing a bomb in a Jewish center in Dallas, and he also emailed a JCC in San Diego saying she wanted to "kill as many Jews asap."

A bipartisan group of members of the House of Representatives wrote to President Trump on Thursday asking him to set up a "comprehensive, inter-agency strategy" to combat the rising number of anti-Semitic incidents across the United States. 

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U.S. President Donald Trump, Israeli officials and Jewish groups have all condemned the surge in intimidation as well as cases of vandalism targeting Jewish cemeteries.

Police said last weekend that about 100 headstones were toppled at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia, about a week after a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis was vandalized.

Some Jewish groups see the vandalism and threats as a sign that anti-Semitic groups have been emboldened by Trump's election. His campaign last year drew the support of white supremacists and other right-wing groups, despite Trump's disavowals of them. 

AP and Reuters contributed background information to this report

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