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Former UW-Madison student indicted for making graphic threats to professors, students

Arvin Mathur was arrested March 10 at Detroit airport after telling victims he planned 'an evening of fun'

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Courtesy calinjurylawyer/Public Domain

A former University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate student has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges he threatened students, professors and their families.

Arvin Mathur was arrested at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport March 10 after emailing victims that he was returning to campus for “an evening of fun” on St. Patrick’s Day. Mathur, 32, of Grass Lake, Michigan, now faces six counts sending online threats to nine individuals associated with UW-Madison.

The criminal complaint includes emails Mathur allegedly sent between Feb. 21 and March 1 to professors and other students he worked with in UW-Madison’s anthropology department, accusing some of being Chinese spies and warning he could kill their children and loved ones. Some of the alleged threats include graphic descriptions of torture and threats to kill children and hide their flesh in “burger meat.”

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An affidavit from UW-Madison Police Department Detective Peter Grimyser states one of the unnamed victims is a professor who was a former advisor to Mathur who had stopped advising him because he was harassing other students.

Mathur left UW-Madison in December 2021. He has been living in Denmark where he’s been attending the Globe Institute at the University of Copenhagen, according to the complaint. Grimyser stated location data provided by Google shows Mathur’s threatening emails came from that city.

On March 1, the complaint states, Mathur emailed nine people including the advisor and other students who received prior threats that he was returning to Madison and wanted to “organize an evening of fun on Friday, March 17th.”

“We are going to then end it with a diving contest: who can reach the deepest depths in Lake Mendota?,” Mathur’s email stated, according to the complaint.

A detention hearing was held in Michigan on Tuesday to determine whether Mathur should be kept in federal custody before facing charges in Wisconsin’s Western District

During that hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Bilkovic said Mathur told a special agent with the Department of Homeland Security he worked for the CIA. As a result, Bilkovic said, Mathur should not be allowed to leave federal custody before facing charges in Wisconsin’s U.S. Western District court.

“The fact that the defendant told law enforcement that he is carrying out these emails at the direction of the CIA means that if he believes that the CIA is actually instructing him to follow through on these threats, then these people are and their lives are in danger,” Bilkovic said. “Their children’s lives are in danger.”

Bilkovic said the threats have had a “profound effect” on UW-Madison and the anthropology department.

“There are students that are not coming to class,” Bilkovic said. “They are engaged in remote learning because everybody there is aware of these threats and people are scared to be on that campus as a result of what the defendant has done.”

Federal Community Defender Casey Swanson told the judge Mathur doesn’t have a criminal history and was flying from Denmark to the U.S. in order to appear in an Ohio Court for a civil protection order filed by an individual not associated with the current case.

“His (Mathur’s) parents have confirmed to me, and Mr. Mather has also confirmed to me, that he was instructed by his attorney for the Ohio case to return to the United States so that he may deal with that civil order of protection,” Swanson said.

The judge ordered that Mathur remain in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service while being transferred to Wisconsin.

In a campus-wide email sent Monday, UW-Madison Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin thanked the campus police department and other law enforcement agencies for working to protect the community.

“Threats of violence are always unacceptable, but they can be especially frightening in the current moment on our nation’s campuses,” Mnookin said. “Nearly one month ago, three Michigan State University students were killed and multiple others were severely wounded in a campus shooting.”

Mnookin said while those incidents are statistically rare, her previous campus, the University of California, Los Angeles, experienced a mass shooting in 2016.

“What I can tell you is that there are dedicated people in multiple UW–Madison campus units, putting their best efforts into prevention, training and response. We also need the participation of our entire community in these important efforts,” Mnookin said.

A court date hasn’t been set in Wisconsin for Mathur. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison for each of the six counts.