Kamiak grad charged in Harvard bomb hoax

By Sara Bruestle | Dec 18, 2013
Eldo Kim

A Harvard University student from Mukilteo is accused of making a bomb threat that forced the evacuation of four buildings on campus so he could get out of a final exam.

Prosecutors from the Boston U.S. attorney’s office allege that Eldo Kim, 20, a Harvard sophomore, sent hoax emails Dec. 16 saying shrapnel bombs would go off soon in two of four buildings on Harvard’s Cambridge, Mass., campus.

The emails arrived minutes before he was to take a final exam in one of the buildings.

The threats led to a shut down of the buildings for hours before investigators determined there were no explosives.

Kim is a 2012 graduate of Kamiak High School. While at Kamiak, he was a National Merit Scholarship finalist and was a member of the tennis and debate teams, said Mukilteo School District spokesperson Andy Muntz.

Tennis coach Vic Alinen and debate team adviser Steven Helman did not return requests for comment before the Beacon’s deadline.

At about 8:30 a.m., Kim sent emails to Harvard police, two university officials and the president of the Harvard Crimson newspaper, with the subject “bombs placed around campus,” according to an FBI affidavit.

The messages each read as follows:

“shrapnel bombs placed in:

science center

sever hall

emerson hall

thayer hall

2/4. guess correctly.

be quick for they will go off soon.”

The threats prompted the evacuation of all four buildings just after 9 a.m. and led to the cancellation of several final exams.

A search by the Harvard University Police Department, the Cambridge Police Department, the Massachusetts State Police, as well as the Secret Service and the FBI, revealed no explosives.

The buildings were cleared after a thorough sweep of each, over the course of several hours, wrote an FBI agent.

Investigators said Kim admitted he emailed the bomb threats about a half-hour before he was scheduled to take a final in Emerson Hall. He said he was there at 9 a.m. when he heard the alarm sound to evacuate the building.

“According to Kim, he was motivated by a desire to avoid a final exam,” the agent wrote.

Upon hearing the alarm, he said he knew his plan had worked, according to the FBI affidavit.

The emails were sent using Guerrilla Mail, a free online application that creates temporary, anonymous email addresses. Additionally, Kim used a free application called TOR, which assigns an anonymous IP address for a limited time that is difficult to trace.

Harvard determined Kim had accessed TOR using the university’s wireless network hours before the receipt of the emails.

Kim said he used the word “shrapnel” because it sounded dangerous and wrote “2/4. guess correctly” to turn it into a guessing game so that it would take longer to clear the campus, according to the FBI affidavit.

In a statement from Dec. 17, a Harvard University spokesperson wrote:

“We are aware that a member of our community has been arrested in relation to this matter and are saddened by the details alleged in the criminal complaint filed by the United States Attorney’s office today.

“At this time, we will have no further comment on an ongoing criminal investigation.”

As a sophomore at Kamiak, Kim was a National Peace Essay Contest winner with other students nationwide, a program sponsored by the United States Institute of Peace.

His USIP biography described him as a member of the varsity tennis, swim and debate teams at Kamiak.

“Eldo is also a member of National Honor Society and tutors students in mathematics. He is enrolled in the Seattle Conservatory of Music and plays the viola,” the biography said.

Kim also was described as a voluntary research assistant for a professor at Korea University, and that he had assisted in the development of a model for public acceptance of the management of radioactive waste.

The biography continued: “Eldo plans to major in political science and is excited for what the future holds in the coming years.”

The maximum penalties for a bomb hoax are five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine, prosecutors said.

Kim appeared in federal court briefly on Dec. 18. He was released from jail on $100,000 bail and banned from Harvard’s campus.

 

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