The US Justice Department said a 22-year old Massachusetts man has been sent to prison for 30 months for making hoax phone calls to police that triggered armed responses from a SWAT teams across the country.
The US Department of Justice says swatters typically make false reports to elicit an emergency response by other first responders, such as police or adult protective services, to a specific physical address. In addition, swatters typically spoof phone numbers to conceal their identity. Swatters often tell tales of hostages about to be executed or bombs about to go off. The community is placed in danger as responders rush to the scene, taking them away from real emergencies. And the officers are placed in danger as unsuspecting residents may try to defend themselves, the FBI said in a statement.
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In the Massachusetts case, the Justice Department says Nathan Hanshaw, 22, of Athol, Mass., pleaded guilty on Aug. 30, 2013, to a three-count information charging him with one count of making interstate threats, one count of threats to use explosives and one count of threats to use a firearm.
According court records, Hanshaw typically claimed in his swatting calls that he was a fugitive who was wanted by the authorities; that he was armed with weapons, explosives and nerve agents; and that he had taken hostages. He demanded cash and a helicopter ride to Mexico and threatened to detonate his bombs and kill his hostages if his demands were not met. He also threatened to kill any law enforcement personnel who arrived at the location.
Hanshaw generally claimed to be, and, because he used techniques to disguise his location, appeared to be, calling from an address that, unbeknownst to the law enforcement officers responding to the call, was the address of his intended swatting victim, the DoJ stated.
At the change of plea hearing in August, prosecutors told the court that, had the case proceeded to trial, the government would have proven that, from September 2012 through mid-January 2013, Hanshaw made swatting calls to emergency services numbers across the United States, including Denver; Ventura, Calif.; and Waverly, N.Y. In each case, armed police responses ensued. In response to Hanshaw's swatting call to Ventura, for example, more than 40 local and federal officers arrived at the purported crime scene, a hotel was evacuated, and nearby streets were closed for several hours. His activities created a serious risk of physical harm to innocent victims and caused extensive disruptions to important public services, the DoJ stated.
On top of all that, this is the second time that Hanshaw has been convicted of swatting, according to a report in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. According to the paper, Hanshaw was convicted of similar crimes when he was a juvenile, and sentenced for his crimes and again later for violating the terms of his release.
In addition Hanshaw appears to have escaped harsher punishment by aiding a government investigation of swatting regarding the highly controversial Aaron Swartz case.
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