The Federal Bureau of Investigation Friday morning arrested a man accused of making recent bomb threats to at least eight Jewish community centers, schools and the headquarters of a Jewish advocacy group.
The Justice Department accused Juan Thompson, 31, of St. Louis, Missouri, of making the threatening calls as a way to harass his unnamed ex-girlfriend.
The department said Thompson also made several threats under his own name, in an attempt to make it look like the woman was trying to frame him.
"Today, we have charged Juan Thompson with allegedly stalking a former romantic interest by, among other things, making bomb threats in her name to Jewish Community Centers and to the Anti-Defamation League," New York-based U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.
The bomb threats allegedly called in by Thompson came as part of a wave of threats made to about 100 Jewish institutions over the past few weeks. The threats forced many of the centers to be evacuated and created a sense of fear among many in the Jewish community.
It was not clear Friday whether investigators believe Thompson was behind the other threats.
In addition to the bomb threats, Jewish cemeteries in two states have been targeted by vandals over the past two weeks, including one in St. Louis, near where Thompson was arrested. Hundreds of headstones – some of which date back to the 1800s – were damaged.
Lt. Fredrick Lemons of University City, Missouri, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch detectives plan on questioning Thompson about the more than 150 headstones destroyed there last month, although he wouldn’t say whether police consider Thompson a suspect.
Thompson was charged with one count of cyberstalking in the bomb threat case, and could face up to five years in prison if convicted.
Thompson is a former journalist who was fired from an online publication called The Intercept in January 2016 after it was discovered he made up several sources and quotes in his stories.
The Intercept confirmed Thompson was a former employee and in a statement released Friday said it was “horrified” to learn of his arrest in connection with the threats.
“These actions are heinous and should be fully investigated and prosecuted. We have no information about the charges against Thompson other than what is included in the criminal complaint,” the website said.
Thompson’s Twitter feed shows that he has a history of making racist remarks against white people and apparent comments against President Donald Trump.
Thompson also tweeted numerous times, apparently condemning the bomb threats he is accused of having committed.