A Massachusetts man was sentenced to serve 30 months in prison today for engaging in an illegal practice known as “swatting,” in which he made hoax emergency telephone calls reporting an ongoing, dangerous crime to elicit an armed police response from a SWAT team to a specific location, typically in order to harass someone he believed was at the location.
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 made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Hillman.
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.
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 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 of the District of Massachusetts’ Computer Crimes Unit.