Friday, March 28, 2008

SWATter hoaxer gets three years in jail

A computer hacker was sentenced to three years in prison for placing a phony 911 call that led a SWAT team to storm a family home at gunpoint. It marked the first prosecution in Orange County, California for a prank known as "swatting" that involves sending SWAT teams on wild goose chases, said county district attorney's spokeswoman Farrah Emami on Thursday.

Randal T. Ellis pleaded guilty Wednesday to five felony counts, including computer access and fraud, false imprisonment by violence and falsely reporting a crime. He was given prison time and ordered to pay $14,765 in restitution, most of which will go to the county Sheriff's Department.

Ellis, of Mukilteo, Washington, placed a 911 call last March, at first claiming to report a drug overdose and then alleging a possible murder. Prosecutors said he hacked the 911 system and transmitted phony information that appeared to show he was calling from a Lake Forest home. A sheriff's SWAT team accompanied by police dogs and a helicopter descended on the home, where a couple and their two toddlers were sleeping, Emami said.

Doug Bates, awakened by a noise, thought there were prowlers outside and grabbed a kitchen knife. When he checked the backyard, he found SWAT team deputies pointing assault rifles at him. Bates and his wife were handcuffed until authorities determined the call was a hoax.

"That very easily could have turned deadly," Emami said. Ellis was arrested last October and had remained jailed since then. (Info from the Associated Press)

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