Northeastern University VR lab manager arrested for bomb hoax

Jason Duhaime, Northeastern University’s new technology manager and head of the Immersive Media Lab, was arrested in Texas today and charged with “conveying false and misleading information related to an explosive device” and lying to federal authorities. Duhaime claimed to have been hurt last month when a package he was unwrapping on the Boston campus exploded. Duhaime said that the hard plastic container exploded when he opened it on September 13, and that “sharp” particles flew out and hurt his arms, although there was no damage to his shirt or arms, according to the FBI.

The FBI said in an affidavit, “The inside and outside of the case did not bear any marks, dents, cracks, holes, or other signs that it had been exposed to a forceful or explosive discharge of any type or magnitude.”

At a press conference, U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins said Duhaime “is alleged to have fabricated the story and then provided law enforcement with materially false and misleading information about the incident. As we all know, in Boston, Mr. Duhaime’s 911 call generated a significant response. A large portion of Northeastern’s campus was evacuated, and the Northeastern Police Department issued numerous campus-wide alerts, one of which described an explosion on campus.”

From 10 Boston:

The package delivered to¬†Northeastern University’s Holmes Hall was reported to have exploded when it was opened, sending Duhaime to the hospital with minor injuries and launching a local, state and federal investigation.

However, investigators ultimately learned that Duhaime fabricated the claim that he was injured, as the case was empty, and wrote the threatening letter himself. A word-for-word, electronic version of the letter that had been written four hours before Duhaime called 911 was also found on a university computer in his office.

“We believe Mr. Duhaime wanted to be the victim but instead victimized the entire community by instilling fear at college campuses in Massachusetts and beyond,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, FBI special agent in charge for Boston. “Making false threats is not an innocent prank. It’s selfish, shortsighted and a federal crime.”

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Mark Frauenfelder