BANGOR, Maine — Neighbors and acquaintances of a Houlton man accused this week of threatening to kill a member of the European Commission said that, while they believed he could get excited about politics and was upset about his divorce, they were surprised to hear about the charges brought against him.
Dushko Venelinov Vulchev, 38, of Houlton made his first court appearance Monday in federal court in Portland on one count of threats in foreign commerce, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
He remains held without bail.
“I will kill you like chickens,” Vulchev allegedly said in an email to a Bulgarian economist and administrator who is a member of the European Commission, which is located in Brussels, Belgium.
The European Commission is the executive body of the European Union.
The investigation into the threatening emails began Feb. 5 after the victim and others received them. The FBI allegedly traced the emails to Vulchev, who, with permission, had used a Houlton neighbor’s wireless Internet connection.
Vulchev composed the emails in Bulgarian and wrote in all capital letters, according to the complaint. They were translated into English for the FBI by a member of the Specialized Directorate for Combating Organized Crime in Bulgaria. Vulchev, who is a naturalized citizen, allegedly demanded jobs for Bulgarians in Europe and threatened to kill the victim if his demands were not met.
“Who doesn’t obey an order in time of war is punished by death by firing squad,” he wrote in one email. “Who receives email from me has received a kiss from the devil. If you don’t obey me … I will kill all you whores.”
Vulchev graduated from the University of Maine at Presque Isle in 2007.
Vulchev noted in “The Blue & Gold,” a newsletter for UMPI alumni, that after graduating from the college, he obtained a master’s of science degree in banking and financial services management from Boston University in 2010. That was confirmed via an online records check Thursday.
“I cannot put into any words just how thankful I am to UMPI for providing me with the foundation I needed in order to achieve such a great accomplishment,” he wrote in a note posted in the summer 2010 edition of the alumni magazine.
He attended several Houlton Town Council meetings in 2014 and sometimes spoke during the public comment portions about local business issues and the search for a new manager.
During one meeting, although he did not possess the criteria the hiring committee was looking for and the deadline for submitting applications had passed, Vulchev offered himself as a candidate for the town manager job at a substantially lower salary.
Town Manager Butch Asselin said Tuesday that he met with Vulchev last year when the 38-year-old spent approximately an hour in his office discussing President Barack Obama’s administration. Asselin said that Vulchev was critical of some of the president’s decisions but was not in any way threatening.
Chris Harris, a Houlton resident, said this week that he has known Vulchev for the past two years, and he was surprised by the allegations against the native Bulgarian.
“He is usually pretty soft spoken, but he does tend to get pretty riled up when he is talking about politics,” Harris said Tuesday. “But I never thought he would do something like this.”
A neighbor of the Court Street resident, who asked to remain anonymous, said Tuesday evening that Vulchev was going through a divorce and was “not taking it very well.
“He seemed like he was having financial difficulties as well,” the neighbor said. “I am not sure if he had a steady job. I think he was going through a lot.”
Vulchev was arrested Sunday after authorities learned he was considering flying to Bulgaria on Monday, according to information posted on the court’s electronic case filing system.
He will remain incarcerated until a bail hearing on April 13 in U.S. District Court in Bangor.
If convicted, Vulchev faces up to five years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.