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Phone "swatter" gets 30 months
Published: 2008-03-14

A federal judge in Texas sentenced a Washington man to 30 months in prison for using spoofed telephone numbers and social engineering to convince police SWAT teams to show up at victims' doors.

Guadalupe Santana Martinez, 32, pled guilty to being part of a telephone chat group that used voice-over-IP phones and spoofing sites to make more than 100 calls to emergency services, claiming to have killed or taken hostages at the victim's address in order to prompt an armed police response, according to a statement released on Wednesday by Richard B. Roper, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas. Known as swatting, the malicious technique has become popular among some modern phone hackers. Martinez pled guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit device fraud and unauthorized access to protected computers.

Four other members of the Martinez's group have pled guilty of similar charges and are awaiting sentencing.

The defendant's "criminal actions resulted in injuries to innocent victims and service disruptions of telecommunications providers and emergency responders -- all part of our national infrastructure," the U.S. Attorney said in the statement.

In a separate case in October, the District Attorney's office in Orange County, California charged a 19-year-old man, also from Washington, with six felonies stemming from a prank in which the teenager spoofed the telephone number of a California family in a call to emergency services, an act which resulted in a SWAT team handcuffing the parents of two children at gunpoint in their own yard. Attacks on the United States' emergency services, known as 911, are relatively rare. In 2005, a prankster was found guilty after he used a Trojan horse to cause victims' WebTV boxes to dial 911. In 2000, an network worm clogged the 911 system in Texas.

More than 40 state and local law enforcement agencies aided in the investigation against Martinez and other members of the group, according to the U.S. Attorney's statement. The swatting calls resulted in up to $250,000 in losses, the prosecution claimed. As part of his sentence, Martinez has been ordered to repay almost $25,000.

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Posted by: Robert Lemos
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