After nearly a year-long investigation conducted by officers from the FBI and Ventura County Sheriff, an online gamer was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for a "swatting" hoax that occurred earlier this year. On January 2nd, officers responded to the La Quinta Inn in Newbury Park after an anonymous caller stated that he had "bombs, hostages, and guns." Although the call appeared to come from a local 805 area code phone number, it had been digitally dialed from an online gamer across the country.
Months of investigations eventually tracked a cyber-trail to a 22-year-old Massachusetts man who had made the call. Authorities suspect that the man placed the call in order to target a local gamer after they had a falling out. The local gamer had been staying at the La Quinta Inn.
After an arrest made over the summer, prosecutors worked with local authorities and the FBI to charge the man with federal crimes for making interstate threats. The man had previously been convicted of internet crimes when he was 17. Earlier this week, he was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.
Computer Crimes, Federal Crimes & Severe Penalties
This case serves to highlight not only the severe penalties that come with computer and federal crime convictions, but also the resourcefulness of law enforcement officers. Although the gamer was technologically savvy and able to conceal his identity and location when making the call, authorities and specialized cyber-crime task forces were able to track him down, arrest him, and subsequently convict him for a federal crime.
Because computer crimes often involve offenses that cross state lines, accused individuals may face federal allegations. Computer crimes and federal crimes are taken extremely serious and law enforcement agencies commonly work together in order to arrest and convict suspects. Sentencing guidelines and penalties are also incredibly harsh. After California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed a "swatting" bill this past September, individuals convicted in swatting cases must also pay restitution for the costs of law enforcement response. These costs can amount to tens of thousands of dollars.
If you or your loved one currently stands accused of an internet crime, let this case remind you of the importance of working with experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorneys. At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, our Ventura criminal lawyers are committed to protecting the freedoms and futures of our clients, and we fight relentlessly on their behalves throughout all stages of their legal journeys, including the investigation process.
To learn more about your charges, the penalties you face, and how our firm can help, call (805) 727-4627 for a free legal consultation.