A man was arrested in Peru for sending more than 150 hoax bomb threats to schools and other public places in the United States, some in retaliation against teenage girls who refused to send him sexually explicit photos, according to Department of Justice officials.
Eddie Manuel Nunez Santos, 32, a website developer in Peru, was arrested by Peruvian authorities on Tuesday in Lima. He was accused of sending fake bomb threats to school districts, synagogues, airports, hospitals, and shopping malls between Sept. 15 and Sept. 21, 2023, according to a release.
He is charged with transmitting threatening interstate communications, conveying false information and hoaxes, attempting to sexually exploit a child, attempting to coerce and entice a minor, and attempting to receive child pornography. Nunez Santos faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if he's convicted.
Justice officials said the hoaxes caused massive disruptions across five states — New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Arizona, and Alaska — and caused evacuations of thousands of school kids, a hospital lockdown and flight delays.
“As alleged, the defendant’s relentless campaign of false bomb threats caused an immediate mobilization by federal and state authorities, diverting critical law enforcement and public safety resources, and caused fear in hundreds of communities across this country,” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams in a statement.
'SHOOK THE SENSE OF SAFETY': Ex-Indiana substitute teacher gets 10 months in prison for sending hoax bomb threats to schools, newspaper
'The bombs will blow up in a few hours'
The FBI began receiving reports of bomb threats sent to various public institutions primarily through email or online contact forms on Sept. 15, according to the release. Investigators said the hoaxes all contained "substantially similar" content. An email address was connected to a Peruvian phone number and IP address.
According to a complaint, Nunez Santos sent an email to a synagogue in Westchester County, New York, that read, "I placed multiple bombs inside the Jewish Center. The bombs I placed in the building will blow up in a few hours. Many people will lay in a pool of blood."
On Sept. 20, he sent emails containing the following threats to approximately 24 school districts in Pennsylvania: "The bombs will blow up in a few hours. I’ll gladly smile when your families are crying because of your deaths." The bomb hoaxes caused 1,100 schoolchildren across the state to be evacuated, justice officials said.
Child 'sextortion' charges
The bomb threats included directives for the institutions to contact phone numbers or IP addresses belonging to underaged girls, including 17 and 13-year-old girls living in Pennsylvania and a 15-year-old girl in New York, according to officials.
The girls had engaged with Nunez Santos, who investigators said had lied that he was a 15-year-old boy named Lucas. Officials said he repeatedly asked at least two of the girls to send him nude photos of themselves. When they refused or ceased contact with him, he threatened to bomb their schools and kill them.
"Not only did Santos email hundreds of hoax bomb threats terrorizing schools, hospitals, and houses of worship, he also perversely tried to sextort innocent teenage girls," said FBI Assistant Director in Charge James Smith in a statement.
According to the complaint, the interactions with the three teenage girls happened on an unnamed game platform since at least June. One girl warned her friend about "Lucas," who had asked her to send him illicit photos of herself. The friend blocked him, and "Lucas" contacted a third girl and said he would bomb the other girl’s school.
In conversations dated Sept. 15, "Lucas" said in the gaming platform’s messenger that he had emailed bomb threats to school districts in Pennsylvania and included the girl’s telephone number in those threats. Some bomb threats were sent with a directive to contact another girl’s IP address, according to the complaint.
Other messages sent in September included threats to kidnap and injure people, according to DOJ officials.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Peruvian man accused of sending over 150 bomb threats to US schools