FBI: Man used Craigslist ad to extort money from Harvard, placed explosive packages on campus

A man is held in federal custody Tuesday night for playing a role in a series of aiding and abetting an extortion attempt, conspiracy, and bomb threats at Harvard University last month, officials say.

William Giordani, 54, claims he was only answering a Craigslist ad from somebody seeking to arrange a package delivery to his son at Harvard back on April 11, according to new court documents.

“I pay for a small side job. Will need items purchased and moved.”

The Craigslist ad said

“Hello I am single father of 3 and my eldest son gos to Harvard. He need some supplys delivered to him before Monday and I dont have time to bring to him. I need you to buy some item for him and deliver, I am very busy I cant and my son need to stay study. Will pay very well, i will also pay back for cost of items. We are Vietnamese family, sorry for poor english.”

The body of the ad read

According to an affidavit by a Harvard University police officer, working with the FBI’s Boston-area Joint Terrorism Task Force, Giordani answered a Boston Craigslist ad posted on April 11, allegedly from a man named Nguyen Mihn, with a New Jersey phone number, offering $300 to somebody who could buy and deliver “some item” to his eldest son, a Harvard student.

Acting on that man’s requests, Giordani bought fireworks in New Hampshire and then, on April 13, several items, including a sturdy tool bag, a safe, and wires at the South Bay Home Depot, all for delivery to Harvard.

Starting shortly before 2:30 p.m. on April 13, police got a series of seven phone calls, all listing the same New Jersey number as the ad, and using a robotic voice to declare that three bombs had been planted around the Harvard campus.

“This is not a joke, a prank, or a drill. There are real lives at stake today. Earlier today our team planted three remotely detonated improvised explosive devices in populated areas across the Harvard campus. While we do not want to detonate these devices, we will not hesitate to do so if you fail to meet our demands,” according to the affidavit. “These devices each have an explosive yield of at least 80 megajoules and contain several pounds of metal shrapnel. If these bombs were detonated now, we estimate that at least 40 students would die and hundreds be badly wounded.”

According to the affidavit

The caller continued giving instructions for how to contact an alleged ring member — and cautioning Harvard to prepare to pay “a large bitcoin transaction” once it received further instructions.

In a call at 3:25 p.m., the voice declared that one of the devices was on the Science Center plaza “between two food trucks in a red and black Husky tool bag,” according to court documents.

That was about an hour and 15 minutes after the first threatening call.

The affidavit continues after Giordani was videoed by a Harvard Webcam walking onto the plaza with a red and black Husky tool bag.

“The individual walks to the center of the plaza and sits down on a bench and places the red and black tool bag on the bench beside him,” says the affidavit. “The individual then appears to be looking at something in his hands, consistent with someone looking or texting on a mobile phone, for several minutes. He stands up, leaves the bag in the plaza, and walks toward the left edge of the video. He again appears to be looking at something in his hands before disappearing out of view of the camera. He reappears briefly standing at a distance from the bag, and then walks out of view of the camera again. The individual reappears and sits down next to the red and black tool bag on the bench again appearing to look at something in his hands. At approximately 14:19 the individual stands up and walks way from the red and black tool bag and appears to take a phone call. He walks in between the two food trucks parked on the plaza. He briefly reappears behind one of the food trucks before leaving the plaza.”

According to the affidavit

At 3:40 p.m., Harvard police officers responded to the plaza and discovered the Husky tool bag on a bench where video showed Giordani leaving it. Once officers evacuated nearby buildings and issued a campus-wide alert, investigators found “a metal locking safe (similar to what would be found in a hotel room), a package of wire and a number of fireworks inside the safe, and a small rectangular box with wires attached to it.”

Man delivered explosives to Harvard
Man delivered explosives to Harvard
Man delivered explosives to Harvard
Man delivered explosives to Harvard
Man delivered explosives to Harvard
Man delivered explosives to Harvard
Man delivered explosives to Harvard
Man delivered explosives to Harvard
Man delivered explosives to Harvard
Man delivered explosives to Harvard

The package of wire found in the bag had a yellow Home Depot sticker with the name “NGUYEN Minh” on it, which led investigators to the Home Depot on Allstate Road in Dorchester’s South Bay mall.

The documents say, “Minh” had called in an order around 6:50 a.m. for 250 feet of galvanized wire, a safe box with a digital lock, and a 16-pocket tool bag, only the store didn’t have the tool bag in stock.

Giordani then arrived around 11:45 a.m. to pick up the stuff and was given a gift card for the value of the tool bag. Giordani was captured on security video leaving the store with the wire and the safe box.

He then returned at 12:20 p.m. and used the gift card to buy “a Husky 22-inch spring-loaded tool bag,” but that was more expensive than the value on the card, so he used $10 in cash and a one-time housemate’s debit card.

“I have compared the images from the Home Depot security cameras at the times of these transactions with a registry of motor vehicles photograph of GIORDANI and confirmed that they are the same individual,” the officer stated in the affidavit.

By April 25, investigators had enough evidence to link Giordani to the case that they called him and asked to meet with him. He initially agreed to meet on April 27 in Tyngsboro, but he didn’t show, claiming he had no proof the person who called was really with the FBI. He then agreed to meet with agents at the FBI office in Bedford, New Hampshire on May 1 — in a call arranged by his mother.

At 10 a.m. Monday, his mother arrived at the office, but said he was reluctant to come because he “was afraid that he would be arrested for transporting fireworks across state lines.” Agents convinced her to call him to try to convince him to come in.

“Giordani also told DR (his mother) that he spoke to the person who placed the Craigslist ad and that person told him that he would be calling Harvard Police to make a bomb threat to get money. Giordani also stated that at the caller’s direction, he then traveled to Worcester to get paid. When Giordani arrived in Worcester, the person told him that he wasn’t able to meet, and added that he wasn’t Asian (as claimed in the Craigslist ad), didn’t have kids (as claimed in the ad), and started “spouting off a bunch of racist things about blacks and Jews.”

The affidavit shows the phone call transcribed as the agents listened in

Giordani then asked his mother to come to pick him up at a specific location in Nashua, New Hampshire.

The affidavit states the agents then drove his mother to Nashua where they approached him and introduced themselves. He began to yell at his mother for bringing the agents to meet him.

Officers sought to calm him down and requested to speak with him about the Craigslist ad and the events at Harvard.

Giordani refused to give access to his phone or to discuss the incident in detail, claiming that the phone was “his business phone” and that there were also intimate photographs on the device. While declining to show officers his mobile phone, Giordani admitted that he knew what he did was wrong and that he “just put some fireworks in a safe and put them at Harvard.”

This is an active and ongoing investigation as to finding the individual who was in on the threatening calls and conspiracy.

Giordani is expected to be back in US District Court for a detention hearing on Friday.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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