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Northeastern University package explosion was a hoax carried out by employee, complaint states

<i>Nicholas Pfosi/Reuters</i><br/>Authorities have arrested and charged a Texas man in connection with a reported package explosion at Northeastern University
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Nicholas Pfosi/Reuters
Authorities have arrested and charged a Texas man in connection with a reported package explosion at Northeastern University

By Kristina Sgueglia, Nicki Brown and Eric Levenson, CNN

A Northeastern University employee who told police last month he was injured by an exploding package fabricated the story and now faces charges in the hoax, according to a criminal complaint.

Jason Duhaime, who was the New Technology Manager and Director of the Immersive Media Lab at Northeastern University, has been charged by complaint with conveying false information and hoaxes related to an explosive device and making materially false and fictitious statements to a US Government agency, according to the complaint.

“Throughout the course of the investigation, we believe he repeatedly lied to us about what happened inside the lab, faked his injuries, and wrote a rambling letter directed at the lab threatening more violence,” Joseph Bonavolonta, FBI special agent in charge, said Tuesday.

Duhaime was arrested in Texas on Tuesday morning and will appear before a magistrate judge in the afternoon, US Attorney Rachael Rollins said.

CNN has reached out to his defense attorney for comment.

The report of an explosion September 13 led to an evacuation of the Northeastern campus in Boston, diverted law enforcement resources and caused panic, Rollins said Tuesday.

“His alleged actions diverted significant law enforcement resources away from essential public safety matters and caused fear and panic not only on campus but also in the homes of the families, friends and loved ones of Northeastern students, faculty and staff as well as the people who live and work near Northeastern’s campus,” she said.

According to the complaint, Duhaime, 45, called 911 to report he was injured by very sharp objects expelled from a plastic case he had collected from the mail room and opened in Northeastern’s virtual reality lab. Officials at the time said he suffered minor hand injuries.

He also told investigators he found a threatening note with the case that accused the lab of secretly working for Facebook and Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg in a US government plot to take over society through virtual reality, according to the complaint.

However, investigators found the case and the letter had no signs of damage, and they discovered a document on Duhaime’s computer that was “word-for-word” the same as the threatening letter, the complaint states.

Authorities also said when Duhaime showed his “several small, superficial marks or bruises” on his forearms to the responding officer, he rolled up long sleeves that did not appear to have damage.

Further, a student who was in the lab during the purported explosion told investigators he did not hear any noises aside from Duhaime’s voice, the complaint states.

“Given the lack of any physical evidence and the fact that the Letter was found on a Computer in Duhaime’s office, the significant inconsistencies between Duhaime’s story and Student #1’s recollection of events support a finding that Duhaime is not being truthful,” the affidavit states.

Northeastern University issued a statement Tuesday saying Duhaime is no longer employed by the university.

“Northeastern would like to thank the professionals in the FBI, the US Attorney’s Office, and Boston Police Department for bringing this investigation to a close,” the university said. “Knowing what we know now about this incident, we would like to make it clear that there was never any danger to the Northeastern community. As always, the safety of our students, faculty, and staff is our highest priority.”

An online bio for Duhaime on Northeastern’s website says he is a “new technology manager” who managed the Virtual / Augmented Reality and 360 immersive technology for the university.

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CNN’s John Miller and Brynn Gingras contributed to this report.

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