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A man was arrested and charged this week in connection with a bomb threats and an extortion plot that targeted Harvard University in mid-April.
William Giordani was arrested and taken into custody on Tuesday, according to court documents. He is facing charges of conspiracy and making extortion threats (aiding and abetting).
The series of alleged events began on April 11 with an ad on Craigslist, according to an affidavit from a Harvard University police officer working with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. Titled “I pay for a small side job. Will need items purchase and moved. (Cambridge),” the poster identified himself as a Vietnamese “single father of 3” with a son at Harvard who needed supplies delivered to him at the school, offering respondents $300 for the service and saying the person who helped would be paid back for the cost of the items, according to the officer.
Around 2:27 p.m. on April 13, a call was made to the Harvard University Police Department from the phone number listed on the Craigslist post, according to investigators. The caller — using “what sounded like a computer-generated male voice which appeared to be designed to disguise the caller’s identity” — told police that three bombs were planted around the Harvard campus, threatening to detonate the devices if a “large bitcoin transaction” was not received.
“If these bombs were detonated now, we estimate that at least 40 students would die and hundreds be badly wounded,” the caller allegedly told police.
“Make no mistake time is not on your side any attempts to stall or distract us will only subtract from the time you have left to defuse this situation,” the caller went on to say, according to court documents. “You have roughly 97 minutes to satisfy our demands less the events of today become a blood and stain on your nation’s history and on the history of Harvard University.”
Between 2:30 and just after 4 p.m. that day, police received another six calls related to the alleged bombs and demands for payment, according to the affidavit. Five of the calls were made from the number listed on the Craigslist post. During one of the calls, the caller told police one of the devices was on the Science Center Plaza in between two food trucks in a red and black bag.
April 13, the investigators noted, was the first 80-degree day of the spring, “a day when students and other members of the Harvard community would reliably be eating, studying, and socializing in the plaza and other outdoor spaces on campus.”
Harvard police responded to the plaza around 3:40 p.m. and located the bag on a bench in the middle of the plaza, where authorities determined through surveillance video that it had been placed by a man later identified as Giordani around 2 p.m. that afternoon. The Cambridge Police Department’s bomb disposal unit responded to the scene, using a robotic device to assess and destroy the device.
“An inventory of the device post-destruction revealed that the red and black Husky tool bag contained a metal locking safe (similar to what would be found in a hotel room), a package of wire and a quantity of fireworks inside the safe, and a small rectangular box with wires attached to it,” the affidavit reads.
The wire in the bag had a Home Depot sticker attached to it with the name associated with the April 11 Craigslist post printed on it, along with the number used in both the ad and most of the calls to police on April 13, according to authorities.
Investigators said they traced the Home Depot purchases to Giordani.
An online order for the wire, safe box, and a zippered tool bag was placed for pickup at the South Bay Center Home Depot early April 13 using the name associated with the Craigslist ad and a gift card, according to the court documents. The zippered tool bag was canceled after the order was placed since it was not in stock.
According to investigators, Giordani was captured on surveillance video picking up the items around 11:45 a.m., and a refund in the form of a gift card was issued to him for the canceled tool bag. He allegedly returned to the store and purchased the red and black bag using the gift card, cash, and a debit card belonging to someone he recently lived with.
When contacted over the course of several days by investigators, Giordani allegedly claimed he didn’t want to get in trouble for transporting fireworks across state lines, saying that “all he did” was respond to the Craigslist ad, put the fireworks and a cable in a safe, and then place the bag containing those items at Harvard. He claimed he spoke with the person behind the Craigslist ad on the phone, saying the man told him he wasn’t a father or Asian as described in the advertisement and would be making a bomb threat against Harvard, according to court documents.
“Giordani refused to give access to his phone or to discuss the incident in detail, claiming that the phone was ‘his business phone’ and that there were also intimate photographs on the device,” the affidavit reads. “While declining to show officers his mobile phone, Giordani admitted that he knew what he did was wrong and that he ‘just put some fireworks in a safe and put them at Harvard.’”
Investigators concluded there was probable cause to believe that Giordani conspired and aided and abetted another individual to extort and threaten Harvard.
He is slated to appear Friday in court for a detention hearing on the charges of conspiracy and making extortion threats.
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