Alaska Resident Charged with Making Hoax Bomb Threats Against Lafayette College
EASTON, PA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced today that Gavin Lee Casdorph, 30, of Anchorage, Alaska, has been charged by complaint and warrant with one count of willfully making false threats in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 844(e). The complaint and warrant alleges that on May 5, 2018, Casdorph threatened to detonate multiple explosive devices he claimed to have planted on the campus of Lafayette College. A joint press conference was held today at the College to announce the charges. U.S. Attorney McSwain, Assistant Special Agent in Charge Steven McQueen of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Philadelphia Division, and Lafayette College President Alison Byerly provided details concerning the investigation and prosecution.
Casdorph was arrested on December 12, 2018, after agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation questioned him at his home in Anchorage, Alaska. Casdorph’s initial appearance took place on Thursday, December 13, 2018 in federal district court in the District of Alaska. On Tuesday, December 18, 2018, Casdorph again appeared in district court in Alaska for a detention hearing; the court determined that he will be detained pending trial. He will be transported to Philadelphia shortly to face the federal charges against him.
The complaint and warrant alleges that on May 5, 2018, a Twitter user operating the handle “BdanJafarSaleem” posted several false and threatening tweets, claiming to have placed explosive devices across the Lafayette College campus in order to “inflict the utmost damage possible.” A letter purportedly authored by the user was posted on Twitter, stating that his grandfather had died, his girlfriend had broken up with him, and that he had found faith and healing in Allah. The author also pledged allegiance to ISIS.
Law enforcement agencies quickly determined that there were no bombs on campus, but the hoax caused a tremendous amount of disruption and anxiety on campus. The threats also caused the College to move the location of its graduation ceremonies as a precaution.
If convicted, Casdorph will face a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment, three years’ supervised release, a fine of $250,000, and a $100 special assessment.
“This is a great example of law enforcement and school officials working together to keep the community safe, and there are important lessons to draw from it,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “Casdorph’s arrest sends a clear message to anyone who pulls a stunt like the one alleged in this complaint and warrant: this is not a game and threats like these are no joke. If you engage in this kind of behavior, no matter who you are or where you are – even as far as Alaska – law enforcement will determine what you did, hunt you down, and hold you accountable.”
"When the FBI learned of the threats made against Lafayette College last May, we immediately mobilized," said FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge McQueen. "Public safety is always our highest priority. Fortunately, we fairly quickly determined that there was no indication of an immediate threat to the college and community. But as this investigation, and the arrest of Gavin Casdorph show, the FBI takes all threats of violence extremely seriously. Making a hoax threat, also known as 'swatting,' is not a joke -- it's a crime. That's the message I want people taking away from this case. If the FBI catches you 'swatting,' you may soon be 'squatting' in federal prison."
“I want to express our immense gratitude to all of the federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, including our own Department of Public Safety, for their diligence in pursuing this investigation and identifying a suspect,” said President Byerly. “I also want to thank the Lafayette community – students, faculty, staff, parents, and alumni – for supporting one another during a difficult time last May, and for helping the College return to a sense of normalcy as quickly as possible once the FBI had determined that the threat was not credible.”
This case was investigated by the Lafayette College Department of Public Safety, Easton Police Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Philadelphia Division and Anchorage Division. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Joseph LaBar.