FBI links him to threat against Jewish school
Forensic investigators matched a fingerprint from the letter’s envelope to Mohammed Alkaramla, authorities said.
During a search of Alkaramla’s apartment last month, agents also found a book of postage stamps—bearing a design of two swans forming a heart shape, the same design as the stamp on the bomb threat letter. That particular stamp hadn’t been produced in more than a decade, and the book found in a dresser drawer was missing one stamp, charges say.
Agents also seized a laptop computer from Alkaramla, and subsequent analysis of the computer’s hard drive found the text of the threat letter and Google search terms such as “Bomb attack + Israel + letters,” authorities said.
It also showed that Alkaramla had tried to find a sample of a threat letter online.
Alkaramla, 24, was taken into custody at his home in the 6000 block of North Artesian Avenue by the FBI‘s Joint Terrorism Task Force. A federal judge ordered the Jordanian national held in custody at least until a detention hearing on Tuesday.
Alkaramla was under investigation in the vandalism of several Chicago-area synagogues and Jewish schools in early January after Israeli airstrikes and troop incursions into the Gaza Strip in the Mideast. But Friday’s criminal complaint said only that Alkaramla had mailed a bomb threat to Ida Crown Jewish Academy in Chicago in late December.
The letter threatened to set bombs at 22 Jewish educational centers in the Chicago area, but no explosives were found.
At Alkaramla’s apartment Friday, his father declined to comment on the arrest, but friends and neighbors said they were surprised by the charge.
“He was a calm kid,” said Anita Kivarkis, 21, who lives in an apartment beneath Alkaramla’s. “He would never think of doing something like that.”
Alkaramla was studying to be a computer engineer and worked in technical support, friends said. After last month’s search, he was more concerned about getting his computer back from authorities than about a potential arrest, Kivarkis said.
On the day of the February search, Alkaramla denied wrongdoing, saying he was being targeted because he was a Muslim.
“I’m too busy studying and working to commit [hate crimes],” he told reporters.
At Ida Crown Jewish Academy, Rabbi Leonard Matanky said that he was somewhat relieved to hear of the arrest but concerned that the letter came from a man living only 1½ miles from the school.
“It’s still disconcerting to know that a member of our geographic community would do such a thing against another good neighbor,” Matanky said
Tribune reporter Jeff Coen contributed to this report.