Crime & Courts

Alaska man who posed as ISIS-inspired radical and threatened to bomb Pennsylvania college sentenced to 5 years in prison

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- The Alaska man who posed online as an ISIS-radicalized Lafayette College student, made threats to bomb several locations on campus and firebombed a car in Canada will spend more than five years in federal prison.

Gavin Lee Casdorph, 22, of Anchorage, was charged in January 2019 and pleaded guilty in April 2020 to one count of willfully making false threats. He was sentenced Wednesday to five years and three months by U.S. District Judge Edward Smith at the federal courthouse in Easton. He was also given three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay more than $7,700 in restitution and a $1,000 fine

Casdorph has been in custody since December 2018.

Federal authorities said Casdorph, 21, used the Twitter handle “BdanJafarSaleem” to post statements May 5, 2018, claiming he placed explosive devices around Lafayette’s campus in Easton and that he had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. He also emailed a threatening letter directly to college officials, authorities said.

As a result of the threats, authorities carried out a campuswide sweep for explosives, and Lafayette College changed the location of its graduation ceremonies.

The FBI said Casdorph created additional Twitter accounts that led them to a Lafayette College student. The Lafayette student told agents he had been involved in an argument about an online game called Counterstrike with another player who used the name “Neuroscientist.”

After the bomb threats, another gamer named “David” told the Lafayette student a gamer named “Gavin” was responsible for the tweets and emails. When contacted by the FBI, Casdorph admitted he made the threats on behalf of “Neuroscientist.” He also allegedly boasted about the steps he took to conceal his identity, which included buying untraceable phone numbers from a Russian website.


Prosecutors said he also admitted traveling to Canada intending to kill two people. Instead, he firebombed a car belonging to one of his intended targets, using gasoline and two propane bottles.

The intended targets of the murder plot were the ex-girlfriend of Casdorph’s online acquaintance and the ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend. The car destroyed in the attack belonged to the boyfriend, prosecutors said. Casdorph also admitted making threats against Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario.

The online friend, David Bukoski, 24, of Hanover Township, Luzerne County, was sentenced in February 2020 in federal court in Anchorage. He received probation for operating a system to attack computer networks and disrupt multiplayer online games.

U.S. Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero praised investigators for tracking down Casdorph despite the false trails he created to conceal his identity.

“This defendant thought he could make threats from the other side of the continent with impunity, but the dedicated agents of the FBI on this case proved him wrong,” she said.

Jacqueline Maguire, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia division, said the sentencing sent a message that hoax threats “aren’t a joke, they’re a crime.”

“Please don’t let keyboard courage short-circuit your future,” she said. “Anyone who tries something like this shouldn’t be surprised when the FBI rolls up at your front door.”