California man arrested after threats prompted Tufts manhunt


The man on the phone to Tufts University police in Massachusetts said he was hiding under a woman’s bed in a campus dorm room and was armed with a Taser gun and several pistols.

The man, who called himself “James,” claimed to have recently escaped from a hospital and would attack the woman if she found him under the bed, according to federal investigators.

Campus police searched for the man during an hours-long, room-by-room manhunt at the Medford campus in May 2021 but came up empty. Federal investigators later learned that “James” was never on the campus but, instead, made the calls from his home in California.

A special agent with the FBI recognized the man’s voice from a previous case, authorities said.

On Friday, the U.S. States Attorney office in Massachusetts announced Sammy Sultan, 48, from Hayward, Calif., who had a previous history of making threatening phone calls, was arrested and charged with making threatening communications in interstate commerce. This charge carries a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000

Prosecutors say Sultan made at least six threatening phone calls to the Tufts University’s police department, where he asked to speak with “female officer” starting around 6:40 a.m. on May 28, 2021.

Sultan claimed he was a former member of the military “special forces” and had taken “pills” before he escaped from a hospital and hid under a woman’s bed at the university, according to 14-page affidavit unsealed on Thursday in the District of Massachusetts.

Sultan refused to disclose his exact location during the calls but repeatedly said he would attack someone with his Taser gun. Prosecutors said Sultan threatened to throw his phone into a toilet to make it inoperable.

To FBI agent Timothy Quinn, the incident sounded similar to a previous federal case in which Sultan admitted to making hundreds of harassing or obscene phone calls to various law enforcement agencies across the United States, Canada and Britain. In those calls, the suspect contacted several animal control agencies and threatened to hurt animals.

In the earlier case, Sultan also requested to speak with female officers, claimed to have escaped from a mental hospital and was armed with various firearms. Sultan was sentenced to two years in prison after he admitted to making hundreds of calls between February 2015 to September 2017.

“During the course of the 2015 investigation, I listened to more than twenty hours of calls placed by Sultan, and also conducted a personal interview of Sultan,” Quinn wrote in an affidavit for Sultan’s arrest this week. “As a result, I am able to recognize Sultan’s voice.”

When Sultan was arrested at his home in Hayward on Thursday, investigators found two phones in his pocket. After investigators received a search warrant of his phone, a forensics analysis found account credentials for a second Google account that was used to make the phone calls to Tufts University, according to court records.

The phone’s search history also contained entries for several sheriff’s offices and searches for various female law enforcement officers.

Sultan is scheduled to appear for a hearing on the pending charges in a Northern California federal courtroom on Friday. He also faces a court hearing in Boston at a later date.



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