The bomb threat that recently closed the Fairlane Village Mall near Pottsville was sent by a Peruvian national who sent multiple threats across the country.
On Wednesday, federal officials announced the arrest of Eddie Manuel Nunez Santos, who allegedly orchestrated the extensive bomb threat hoax campaign targeting multiple institutions across five states, while also attempting to exploit minors.
The suspect, known by the alias “Lucas”, is a 33-year-old Peruvian national who was apprehended in Lima, Peru, on Tuesday.
Authorities revealed that between September 15-21, Nunez Santos sent hoax bomb threats to over 150 institutions, including school districts, synagogues, airports, hospitals, and a shopping mall, spreading panic and triggering large-scale evacuations and other emergency responses.
These states include New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Arizona, and Alaska. Besides the enormous disruptions, the threats also caused substantial diversion of critical law enforcement and public safety resources.
The bomb threat hoax at Fairlane Village Mall forced its evacuation and closed the mall to shoppers for several hours earlier this month. No bombs were found.
The federal complaint additionally charges Nunez Santos with trying to induce a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct and attempting to receive explicit images from minors. It is believed that the hoax bomb threats were a malicious retaliation after the minors refused his requests. Particularly disturbing were the threats to school districts in Pennsylvania, where Nunez Santos threatened that bombs placed in various schools would detonate, bringing immense distress to families.
The officials highlighted a few instances of threats sent via email or online forms, detailing gruesome scenes meant to instill fear. One such email threatened a synagogue in Westchester County, New York, with a bomb that would result in many casualties. Similarly, threatening emails were sent to around 24 school districts in Pennsylvania, promising a horrific scene following bomb detonations.
Investigation into the matter led to the FBI identifying Nunez Santos through email, phone, and IP address data analysis. They found consistency in the threats sent out, both in content and targeted institutions.
The complaint documents a scheme where Nunez Santos used specific phone numbers or IP addresses in his threats, directing the institutions to contact those numbers or addresses, which were found to be used by minors he had been communicating with online.
Nunez Santos is facing multiple charges, including 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. These charges carry a range of sentences, with some requiring mandatory minimums, such as a 15-year minimum for child exploitation.