By Dan Goodin in San Francisco
5th December 2007
Three more individuals have admitted they participated in a series of
phone phreak hoaxes that prompted raids by armed special weapons and
tactic police teams on the homes of unsuspecting victims.
Jason Trowbridge, of Louisiana and Texas, and Chad Ward of Texas pleaded
guilty to multiple felonies, including conspiracy, access device fraud
and unauthorized access of a protected computer. Each faces maximum
penalties of five years in prison, fines of $250,000 and costs for
As previously reported , Stuart Rosoff also pleaded guilty to charges
in connection with the pranks, which over a course of almost five years
snared more than 100 victims and resulted in as much as $250,000 in
losses, according to court documents. Angela Roberson, who was charged
alongside the trio, also entered a guilty plea but court documents did
A sentencing hearing for Trowbridge is scheduled for late February.
Hearings for Ward and Roberson are scheduled for mid March.
Swatters, as the malicious pranksters are referred to, use a combination
of social engineering, phone phreaking prowess and computer hacking to
spoof the phone numbers of individuals they want to harass. They then
make emergency calls to police departments and report crimes in process,
in many cases prompting a response from SWAT teams who conduct emergency
raids on the homes of people whose numbers were spoofed.
In many cases, the victims were fellow participants in telephone party
lines, which largely act as the phone equivalent of internet relay chat
groups. Trowbridge, who went by the names "Jason from California" and
"John from California," furthered the scheme by mining personal
information about the victims from a host of sources, including consumer
reporting agencies, pizza delivery records and newspaper subscription
records, according to court documents signed by the defendant.
The personal information Trowbridge provided allowed the gang to make
fake emergency calls that had the ring of authenticity. In one case,
they posed as an Alvarado, Texas man whose daughter was a party line
participant. They told a police dispatcher that he had shot and killed
members of his family and was armed with an AK47 machine gun. The
caller, who claimed to be high on hallucinogenic drugs, then threatened
to kill his remaining hostages unless he was given $50,000 and safe
passage out of the country.
Police responded by sending police to the residence of the real man.
In September of last year, Ward himself was swatted by members of the
gang. But just a month later, as he admitted in court documents filed
last month, he offered money to anyone who would carry out a Swat attack
on the Alvarado family. Ward, who went by the name "Dark Angel," also
confessed to obtaining personal information on victims by socially
engineering telephone company employees.
The documents provide other colorful details. Among them, Rosoff
threatened to have the phone service of a Cheboygan, Michigan woman
disconnected unless she agreed to provide him with phone sex. When she
refused, Rosoff used social engineering to terminate her phone service.
He also made false reports to police claiming the woman's children were
being abused and discussed ways of having her falsely arrested.
During the course of the conspiracy - which lasted from late 2002 to
June of this year and involved as many as 20 individuals - the
participants also initiated calls to employers, landlords, families and
friends of party line members they held a grudge against. Some of the
members who refused to stop using the line found their friends and
The case was investigated by the FBI field office in Dallas and
prosecuted the the US Attorney's Office for the Northern District of
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