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St. Louis Man Accused Of Making Threats Against Jewish Centers, Schools

Updated 8:30 p.m. ET

Federal authorities have arrested and charged a man in St. Louis who they say is responsible for making at least eight threats against Jewish schools and organizations across the U.S.

The threats were allegedly part of the suspect's larger cyberstalking campaign against a woman with whom he once had a romantic relationship, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York said.

Some of the threats against Jewish centers were made in the woman's name, while others were made in the name of the 31-year-old suspect, Juan Thompson, allegedly in an effort to suggest she was trying to frame him.

Dozens of threats have been made against Jewish community centers since the beginning of 2017, aside from those Thompson is accused of. In a statement, the FBI says investigations into those threats are ongoing.

"FBI Director James Comey and his senior executives today met with Jewish community leaders to discuss the recent increase in threats to Jewish institutions nationwide. The investigation into these threats is a top priority for the FBI. Agents and analysts across the country are working to identify and stop those responsible."

The Federal Communications Commission has also gotten involved, granting a waiver to Jewish Community Centers allowing them to see who might be calling from blocked phone numbers.

Thompson was an intern at NPR member station WBEZ in 2014 and left early to go work at The Intercept, NPR's David Schaper reported. The Intercept said in a statement emailed to NPR that Thompson "was fired after we discovered that he fabricated sources and quotes in his articles" and called the news of Thompson's alleged threats "heinous."

After Thompson was fired in January 2016, the Intercept said he had carried out a" pattern of deception" during his time there and that he also had "created fake email accounts that he used to impersonate people."

According to the criminal complaint, the woman, who was not named but who works at a New York-area social service organization, ended a romantic relationship with Thompson in July 2016.

Just one day later, according to court documents, the woman's employer received an email claiming to be from a news organization that stated she "had been pulled over for drunk driving, and was currently being sued for spreading a sexually transmitted disease." FBI investigators say it was sent from an IP address linked to Thompson.

This started an escalating pattern of abuse, the complaint said. Thompson's harassment appears "to have included, among other things, defamatory emails and faxes to Victim-1's employer, false reports of criminal activity by Victim-1, and JCC Threats in Victim-1's name," according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The abuse also reportedly included an anonymous email to the woman and threatened to release nude photographs of her that were attached to the message. Later, an anonymous email account linked to Thompson sent a message to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, accusing the women of watching child porn.

Thompson is accused of making the following threats against Jewish centers, none of which were found to be credible:

  • Jan. 28: Manhattan's Jewish History Museum received an emailed bomb threat stating that Thompson had placed two bombs there.
  • Feb. 1: A Jewish school in Farmington Hills, Mich., received an emailed bomb threat claiming that Thompson "put two bombs in your school last night. He is eager for Jewish newtown."
  • Feb. 1: A Jewish school in Manhattan received two messages in 10 minutes claiming that Thompson had placed bombs in the building.
  • Feb. 7: A Jewish community center in Manhattan received an emailed threat claiming that Thompson had stashed two bombs in the center's office.
  • Feb. 20: The JCC in San Diego received an email stating that the woman had placed a bomb in the center.
  • Feb. 21:The Council on American-Islamic Relations received an email stating that the woman "has put a bomb in the Jewish center in Dallas."
  • Feb. 21: The Anti-Defamation League received an email that said the woman "is behind the bomb threats against jews. She lives in nyc and is making bomb threats tomorrow."
  • Feb. 22: The ADL received a call claiming there was explosive material "in the ADL's New York office, and that it would be 'detonated within one hour.' "
  • According to the complaint, Thompson asked his Twitter followers if they "know any good lawyers?" He also allegedly said: "Need to stop this nasty/racist #whitegirl I dated who sent a bomb threat in my name & wants me to be raped in jail."

    "Thompson's alleged pattern of harassment not only involved the defamation of his female victim, but his threats intimidated an entire community," William F. Sweeney Jr., FBI assistant director-in-charge of the New York Field Division, said in the statement. Law enforcement officers also spent "hundreds of hours" responding to the threats.

    "We are relieved that nobody has been harmed," David Posner of the JCC Association of North America said in a statement before Thompson's arrest, "but the atmosphere created by these calls hangs over our communities and will only be lifted once someone is caught and punished."

    Thompson has been charged with one count of cyberstalking. If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison.

    Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.
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