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New Hampshire Man Arrested for Planting Fake Bomb on Harvard Campus in Bitcoin Extortion Attempt

Police vehicles and fire trucks line Quincy and Oxford streets amid the April 13 evacuation of Science Center Plaza.
Police vehicles and fire trucks line Quincy and Oxford streets amid the April 13 evacuation of Science Center Plaza. By Julian J. Giordano
By Ryan H. Doan-Nguyen and Yusuf S. Mian, Crimson Staff Writers

A New Hampshire man was arrested Tuesday by the FBI and is accused of planting a fake bomb on Harvard University’s campus last month as an accomplice in an effort to secure a “large” amount of Bitcoin from the University, court records say.

William A. Giordani, 55, is alleged to have placed a tool bag containing a metal safe, wires, and fireworks, which authorities believed to be a bomb, on a bench in Harvard’s Science Center Plaza — leading to the plaza’s evacuation on April 13. He has been charged with aiding and abetting interstate conspiracy and making extortionate threats following a joint investigation by the Harvard University Police Department, the Cambridge Police Department, and the FBI.

FBI spokesperson Kristen M. Setera confirmed Wednesday that the FBI took Giordani into custody “without incident” in Nashua, New Hampshire on Tuesday. She declined to provide further comment.

On April 13, Harvard University Police received a series of seven phone calls starting at 2:27 p.m. from a caller with a seemingly “computer-generated male voice” who claimed to have placed three bombs around Harvard’s campus, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Tuesday. The caller demanded payment in the form of a Bitcoin transaction and told authorities that the bombs would detonate if the demands were not met within 100 minutes.

“There are three bombs planted around the Harvard Campus and we are ready to provide undeniable proof,” the voice said, according to the complaint. “Non-compliance with our orders will result in immediate detonation of all three devices and the death or injury of hundreds of students.”

After the caller revealed the Science Center Plaza as the location of one of the alleged bombs, HUPD located the tool bag and began clearing out the area at around 3:40 p.m. According to an officer’s affidavit, the Cambridge Police Department’s Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit completed a “controlled destruction using a robotic device.”

A loud noise was heard in the area, but HUPD spokesperson Steven G. Catalano previously said that there “was not an explosion” and that the noise was from the use of a water cannon.

Catalano declined to comment on Giordani’s arrest.

Officials spotted Giordani — described as “white male wearing a blue short sleeved shirt and shorts” — placing a red and black Husky tool bag on a bench between two food trucks at approximately 2:10 p.m. on a YouTube livestream of the Science Center Plaza operated by Harvard Common Spaces, according to the complaint.

The suspicious bag in Smith Center Plaza, which contained fireworks, wiring, and a metal safe.
The suspicious bag in Smith Center Plaza, which contained fireworks, wiring, and a metal safe. By Julian J. Giordano

Giordani told authorities that he had been directed to place the bag in Science Center Plaza through an April 11 Craigslist ad by someone under the name “Nguyen Mihn” who claimed to be the Vietnamese parent of a Harvard student, according to the filing.

Giordani explained when he traveled to Worcester for payment, the complaint reads, the person refused to meet with him and told Giordani that he was not Asian, nor did he have children as the ad had claimed. The person then began “spouting off” racist and anti-Semitic comments, Giordani said according to the complaint.

When officers asked about the incident at Harvard, Giordani said he “just put some fireworks in a safe and put them at Harvard,” according to the complaint.

Federal Public Defender Jane Peachy was temporarily appointed as Giordani’s attorney at an initial hearing Tuesday. Peachy confirmed that she is representing Giordani but declined to comment.

Giordani will appear in U.S. District Court Friday for a detention hearing.

Correction: May 3, 2023

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the evacuation of Harvard’s Science Center Plaza took place on April 14. In fact, the evacuation took place on April 13.

—Staff writer Ryan H. Doan-Nguyen can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ryandoannguyen.

—Staff writer Yusuf S. Mian can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @yusuf_mian2.

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