Feds arrest man at Detroit Metro after threats targeting Wisconsin university
Detroit — Federal agents arrested a former University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate student at Detroit Metropolitan Airport who flew to America from Copenhagen on Friday after threatening students, faculty and staff members at his alma mater and vowing to hide the flesh of their children in hamburger meat, according to federal court records chronicling the latest violent threat posed to a college campus.
Arvin Raj Mathur, 32, of Grass Lake in Jackson County, is in the St. Clair County Jail and awaiting a detention hearing Tuesday in federal court in Detroit after being charged with emailing threats to nine people, including graduate students and professors in the university's anthropology department. Mathur, who is being held temporarily without bond, made a brief appearance in federal court Saturday during which U.S. Magistrate Judge Anthony Patti asked if he was a U.S. citizen.
"Yes, sir," Mathur said. "Yes, your honor."
Mathur was charged in a federal criminal case that was unsealed in Wisconsin on Wednesday, three weeks after a Lansing man killed three Michigan State University students and wounded five others. The records were filed amid a rise in extremism and after a string of federal criminal cases in recent weeks in Detroit involving threats to kill Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, law enforcement officers and those in the LGBTQ+ community, and Jewish politicians, including Attorney General Dana Nessel.
"Mr. Mathur is presumed innocent, and we'll await future proceedings to comment further," his defense lawyer, Amanda Bashi, wrote in an email to The Detroit News.
There was no immediate comment from a University of Wisconsin-Madison spokesman Sunday. Professor Claire Wendland, chair of the anthropology department, did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Federal court records describe a series of threatening emails that investigators say were sent from Mathur's account to members of the university since August.
On Dec. 14, a graduate student and teaching assistant, referred to as Victim-1, reported that Mathur had been harassing and defaming him since summer.
"Victim-1 stated he was worried Arvin Mathur was fixated on him and was trying to ruin his professional reputation," wrote Detective Sgt. Peter Grimyser of UW-Madison Police in an affidavit filed in federal court.
"Victim-1 said Arvin Mathur had filed inaccurate reports about him with the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and several foreign governments claiming that he was a 'Chinese operative,'" Grimyser added. "Victim-1 stated as part of his studies and work he has to travel to foreign countries to conduct research and these statements could put his life and profession in jeopardy."
Mathur's adviser in the anthropology department also was a target, according to the court filing, after Mathur left the university in December 2021.
Victim-1 said the harassing emails and social media posts continued into January while Mathur was believed to have been enrolled at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, according to court records.
Back in the U.S., the police investigator obtained Mathur's Gmail address from a University of Wisconsin-Madison database. The address matched one used to send three emails to other victims last month, according to the investigator.
Victim-2, an anthropology professor, received an email from Mathur with the subject line "Call the police."
"If you don't, I will show up and murder every single person that you have ever been close to," the email read.
The email referenced two other people, a fellow in the anthropology department and a former UW-Madison staffer who is an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
"Call the police and a lawyer, otherwise, I will kill their children and hide their flesh inside of their burger meat," the email read.
A fifth person, an assistant professor in the anthropology department, received an email from Mathur's account with the subject line "We are going to kill your daughters," according to the investigator's affidavit. The email instructed the assistant professor to notify the police.
"If you don't show them this very threat letter immediately, we will kidnap your daughters and skin them alive," the email read.
The assistant professor told investigators "he found the email disturbing and he was scared for his family's safety," Grimyser wrote.
A female anthropology professor reported receiving a threatening email Feb. 21 from Mathur's account titled "We're going to kill your family."
"You are going to be kidnapped and put in a cellar," the email read. "This is a threat. Call the police, otherwise you will wake up with your legs soaking in hydrofluoric acid.
"I'm scheduled to be back in Madison," the email continued. "Call the police, otherwise we will punish you."
Later that day, a university police investigator asked Google officials to disclose records that could help pinpoint the location of whoever was sending emails from Mathur's account.
The next day, Google officials provided latitude and longitude coordinates showing the emails were sent from locations in and around Copenhagen from Feb. 20-21.
Meanwhile, the threats continued.
A university staff member working in the Academic Dean's office reported receiving an email from Mathur on Feb. 23 that was addressed to seven people, including a fellow staff member and a graduate student.
"I am coming to Madison next month and I will personally stalk and kill all of your loved ones," the email read.
One victim told investigators they met Mathur in early 2020 and that they were roommates during an excavation.
"He said they were friendly and he had tried to help him when things did not go well for Arvin Mathur at the University of Wisconsin-Madison," the investigator wrote.
By last fall, Mathur was harassing the father of four on WhatsApp, according to the court filing.
"He said over the past few months Arvin Mathur had been sending him harassing emails that escalated to Arvin Mathur threatening to kill his children," the investigator wrote.
(The victim) said he feels fear for the safety of his family and himself because he believes Arvin Mathur may try to kill them when he returns to the United States," according to the court filing.
On March 1, at least nine people received an email from Mathur's account indicating he would return to Madison on March 15 to "visit all of my best friends in the department" for "an evening of fun" next week.
"We could start with a picnic on Lake Mendota, followed by a scavenger hunt that I'm organizing with the police department...," the email read. "We are going to then end it with a diving contest: who can reach the deepest depths in Lake Mendota?
"I can't wait to see all of you guys!" the email read.
The investigator learned Mathur had booked flights from Copenhagen to Amsterdam and Detroit and was scheduled to arrive Friday night.
Mathur was arrested at the airport Friday night.