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Swatters tricked AT&T while making fake 911 calls

Group alleged to lack social skills, may yet make good guests... of the state

By Robert McMillan
November 20, 2007 12:00 PM ET

IDG News Service - A Cleveland, Ohio man has pled guilty to participating in a scheme that involved using AT&T employee passwords and identities to place false 911 calls to emergency dispatch centers.

Stuart Rosoff is facing as much as five years in prison and a $250,000 fine after pleading guilty to charges of harassing people by tricking 911 operators into dispatching police SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) teams to the homes of their unsuspecting victims. Rosoff was part of a group of about 15 to 20 people who met in chat rooms and telephone party lines to exchange information on how to conduct their attacks, according to court documents.

Rosoff is considered the lead defendant in a federal case against members of the group. Two other members have pled guilty, and two others, Jason Trowbridge and Chad Ward, are still facing trial.

Virtually unknown until recently, swatting gained national attention last month when 19year-old Randall Ellis was arrested after allegedly dispatching a SWAT team to the home of an unsuspecting couple in Orange County, California. That incident cost county officials nearly $20,000. On Friday, Ellis plead not guilty to charges stemming from the March 29 incident. He is not believed to be connected with Rosoff or his group.

The Rosoff group has been connected to about 60 incidents, including one in January 2007, according to Detective Larry Cole with the Snohomish County Sherriff's Office in Washington State. In that case, a Rosoff's co-conspirator named Guadalupe Santana Martinez ended up dispatching 35 county employees, including the SWAT team to a Snohomish County home in the middle of the night. "He built enough information and called 911 and faked that he was committing a serious crime at the time," he said. "When our patrols responded, nobody answered the door, so it ended up being an activation of our SWAT team."

In a June 12, 2006 incident, Martinez is alleged to have called 911, saying that he was high on hallucinogenic drugs, had shot and killed family members and was holding hostages.

Martinez used a spoof card to conceal his identity in this case, according to court filings, but in the Snohomish County incident he used an even simpler technique: he blocked his caller ID and simply gave 911 operators his victim's number, according to Cole. "Even with our 911 system if you use some blocked numbers for privacy reasons it's hard for our 911 system to read them," he said.

Martinez and Angela Roberson, and another group member, have since pleaded guilty to swatting charges.

Court documents state that he and other group members used social engineering techniques against telephone companies such as AT&T.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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