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FanX co-founder arrested in Hawaii, accused of making bomb threats to Utah buildings

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Salt Lake FanX co-founder Bryan Brandenburg speaks at the Megaplex Theatre on Nov. 19, 2014, in Sandy.

Hugh Carey, Deseret News

Bryan Brandenburg, one of the founders of Salt Lake's FanX convention, was arrested in Hawaii this week and accused of threatening to bomb multiple buildings in Utah.

Bryan Melvin Brandenburg, 63, of Waipahu, Hawaii, appeared in a Hawaii federal court on Tuesday. Brandenburg was charged in Hawaii's federal court on Friday with transmitting threats in interstate commerce and threatening and conveying false information concerning the use of an explosive.

Brandenburg is accused of sending emails to multiple people in Utah threatening to bomb different buildings earlier this month.

Brandenburg had ongoing divorce proceedings in Utah and had correspondence with the court prior to the threats. according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Hawaii.

On March 8, Brandenburg emailed an employee of Utah's 3rd District Court asking when a ruling would be made on his divorce, and the employee told him it would take a judge 60 days to make the ruling. On April 29, Brandenburg emailed the court saying, "60 days is today. I look forward to ending this nightmare. Thank you," charging documents state.

Brandenburg allegedly emailed the court again on May 2, demanding a divorce and using an expletive. A different court employee emailed him saying his language would not be tolerated. The next day Brandenburg emailed the court, saying, "So go (expletive) yourself. All of you," and "I guess I'll just have to bomb the city," according to the criminal complaint.

On May 4, Brandenburg sent emails to both court employees where he threatened to bomb the Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City, the Utah State Capitol, the Salt Lake City mayor's office, and apparently the Salt Lake Temple, charging documents say. Prosecutors say that multiple emails were sent from Brandenburg's account, including an email that implied his divorce decision had been sent to him.

One email states, "We're still going to bomb the 3rd District Courthouse. Hae (sic) a nice day," according to charging documents. Subsequent emails said, "Now we're going to bomb the State Capital (sic)...." and "And then .... We'll bomb the mayor's office ..." Another email said "And then, we're going to level the sacred temple," according to the charges. Investigators say Brandenburg also threatened to bomb "every Ivy League School," and the federal courthouse in San Diego "to teach them a lesson."

One of the court employees later notified the head of security for the Salt Lake courthouse and the Salt Lake City Police Department about the alleged threats.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, which has two federal courthouses in San Diego, ordered FanX to pay San Diego Comic-Con International nearly $4 million in legal fees in 2018 following a lawsuit regarding the trademarks for both events. FanX was formerly known as Salt Lake Comic Con, and a jury found in 2017 that the Salt Lake City event violated trademark rules by using the name.

Brandenburg, who is one of two founders of the FanX convention, also announced in 2018 that he was taking an "indefinite leave of absence" from FanX after controversy surrounding how the convention handled sexual harassment complaints. Brandenburg sold his share of FanX in the spring of 2019 to pursue other business opportunities, a spokesman for FanX said Wednesday.

Two days after the May 4 threats, Brandenburg is accused of threatening to bomb "hall labs" and the University of Utah Center for Medical Innovation. Charging documents allege he sent the threat in an email to four Salt Lake media members at the Deseret News, Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City Weekly and the host of an unidentified morning radio show.

Brandenburg called a Utah business "Frankenstein Inc.," saying, "They put illegal medical devices in me without my knowledge or permission with U of U Center for Medical Innovation. We're bombing both campuses today for crimes against humanity," the charging documents state.

The messages Brandenburg sent to the media were forwarded to police, which caused the evacuation of the university's Center for Medical Innovation. Following a sweep of the building, police determined the threat to be a hoax. The university said at the time that the initial bomb threat was made to local media, who reported it to police.

FBI agents in Hawaii interviewed Brandenburg on May 6, and charging documents say he "read the emails out loud and acknowledged sending the emails." Brandenburg allegedly told the FBI that he sent the emails to get their attention and to pressure the Salt Lake City court and his family so he could "get his money back that they stole from him."

Brandenburg was arrested at his Waipahu home on Monday, according to federal prosecutors. He made his first court appearance on Tuesday, and is scheduled to appear in court later this week. Federal prosecutors are seeking to hold Brandenburg in jail until his case is adjudicated, court records say.