An Athol, Mass., man has been charged in a criminal information with engaging in a practice known as “swatting,” which involves making hoax emergency telephone calls in order to elicit an armed police response (from a SWAT team) for the purpose of harassing someone believed to be at a specific location.
The announcement was made today by Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz of the District of Massachusetts.
Nathan Hanshaw, 22, of Athol, has agreed to plead guilty to the charges in the criminal information filed today in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts. The three-count information charges Hanshaw with making interstate threats, threats to use explosives and threats to use a firearm.
According to court documents, Hanshaw typically claimed during his swatting calls that he was a fugitive who was wanted by the authorities and that he had taken hostages and was armed with weapons, explosives and nerve agents. 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. According to court documents, Hanshaw generally claimed 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 information charges that Hanshaw made swatting calls to police departments across the United States, including departments in Denver; Ventura, Calif.; and Waverly, N.Y. In each case, armed police responses ensued. In response to Hanshaw’s swatting call to Ventura, 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.
The counts of making interstate threats and making threats to use a firearm each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison. The count of making threats to use an explosive carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
The case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Mona Sedky of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Bookbinder the District of Massachusetts’s Computer Crimes Unit. The Massachusetts State Police and Ventura County Sheriff’s Department were among the law enforcement agencies that assisted in this investigation and prosecution.