The US Department of Justice said a federal criminal complaint had been filed against Thomas Patrick Connally Jr, age 56, on Tuesday for threatening federal officials and for “interstate communication containing a threat to harm” against Dr Fauci and Dr Collins.
Dr Fauci, as a face of the US government’s Covid response and the federal government’s top infectious diseases expert, continues to be a target for abuse from Covid conspiracy theorists.
He was allegedly told in a threatening email from Mr Connally Jr that he and his family would be “dragged into the street, beaten to death, and set on fire”, according to the complaint.
Dr Fauci was also accused of fraud regarding HIV and AIDS, and was sent an email as recently as 21 July. All of the emails were sent via encrypted email services based in Switzerland, the Justice Department said.
Mr Connally Jr was charged by the Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F Lenzner and the US inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services, special agent George Adams.
He was arrested in West Virginia, The Baltimore Sun reported, and was transferred to Maryland, where the NIH is based, in Bethesda. His first appearance in federal court is set for Wednesday.
Mr Connally Jr also allegledy wrote to Dr Fauci in late December and allegedly told him: “Hope you get a bullet in your compromised satanic elf skull today”, according to The Sun. Dr Collins, his boss at NIH, also received emails of a similar nature.
Mr Lenzer, the acting attorney general, said in a statement: “We will never tolerate violent threats against public officials”.
“Our public health officials deserve our thanks and appreciation for their tireless work, and we will not hesitate to bring charges against those individuals who seek to use fear to silence these public servants,” he added.
Dr Fauci has often spoken of the death threats he has received for his work on Covid, which included Donald Trump’s former aide Steve Bannon calling for his beheading. The former president frequently disagreed with Dr Fauci, his own infectious diseases expert, on Covid for most of last year.
If found guilty, Mr Connally Jr could face up to 10 years in prison.