Northeastern University Package Explosion Was a Hoax, Employee Facing Federal Charges
The package, described as a Pelican case, contained a note that criticized Mark Zuckerberg and developers of virtual reality technology.
A Northeastern University employee has been charged in connection with an alleged explosion that investigators say never happened.
The FBI Tuesday said 45-year-old Jason Duhaime, the new technology manager and director of the Immersive Media Lab at the school, told police that a case exploded when he opened it on Sept. 13. Investigators began to question the validity of Duhaime’s claims because no explosive materials were found at the scene. The case in question was empty and did not show signs of an explosion, and the employee’s injuries were not consistent with an explosion, reports WCVB.
“I have probable cause to believe that certain information provided by Duhaime to the 911 operator and to the federal agent—namely that he was injured by ‘sharp’ objects expelled from the Subject Case and that the case contained a threatening letter — was fabricated by Duhaime,” an FBI Special Agent wrote in an affidavit filed Monday. “Evidence discovered during the FBI’s ongoing investigation indicates that Duhaime himself authored the threatening letter. I believe, based on the ongoing investigation, that the Subject Case contained no ‘sharp’ objects, that no objects were expelled from the case when Duhaime opened it, and that Duhaime sustained no injuries as a result of opening the Subject Case.”
Duhaime faces charges of conveying false information and hoaxes related to an explosive device, and making materially false and fictitious statements in a matter within the Executive Branch of the government of the United States.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE 9/15/22:
BOSTON, Mass. — Authorities are now looking into whether the Northeastern University employee who reported that a case exploded Tuesday night staged the incident.
The 45-year-old employee told investigators that a plastic container, described as a Pelican-style case, was delivered to Holmes Hall and exploded when he brought it inside and opened it, reports Yahoo News. The employee was hospitalized with minor hand injuries.
Police say the package did not include explosives or any detonation mechanism and the employee’s injuries were not consistent with those typically suffered during an explosion. A federal official who spoke with The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity said investigators found inconsistencies in the employee’s statement and became skeptical.
The employee told The Boston Globe that he did not stage the incident and that it was “very traumatic.”
“I did not stage this, no way, shape or form,” he said. “They need to catch the guy that did this.”
The building was evacuated and a notification alerting students to avoid the area was sent out just before 8 p.m. Officials from Boston Police’s bomb squad and Boston Emergency services were called to the scene. Boston Police Superintendent Felipe Colon said a second similar package was found on the outskirts of the campus near the Museum of Fine Aerts but was rendered safe. Night classes in nearby buildings were canceled.
According to CNN, the first package contained a “rambling note” criticizing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and the ties between academic institutions and developers of virtual reality technology. In Oct. 2021, the parent company of Facebook changed its name to Meta as the company shifted its focus to the virtual reality metaverse. The building the package was left at houses the school’s virtual reality center.
During a news conference Tuesday night, investigators said they have not yet determined how the package made its way onto the campus but that it was not delivered through the U.S. Postal Service.
Other campuses in the area, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston University, urged people to remain vigilant and report suspicious packages. Harvard University increased campus police patrols in response to the incident. Northeastern was fully operational by Wednesday and is offering counseling for students and staff.
The incident is being investigated by BPD, Boston Regional Intelligence, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Taskforce.