Hacker gets prison for false 911 report

Hacker gets prison for false 911 report
Hacker gets prison for false 911 report

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The Orange County Register
March 26, 2008

A Washington state computer hacker =E2=80=93 who misled police with a wild tale 
of threats and a possible murder scenario =E2=80=93 pleaded guilty Wednesday in 
Orange County Superior Court.

Randal T. Ellis, 19, of Mulkiteo, Wash., was charged with computer 
access fraud, false imprisonment by violence, falsely reporting a crime 
and assault with a firearm.

Ellis was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay $14,765 
in restitution. Fourteen thousand dollars will go to the Orange County 
Sheriff Department to cover the cost of the investigation, as well as 
the SWAT team dispatched as a result of Ellis's actions. The remaining 
amount is slated for the city of Mulkiteo, Wash. to cover the cost of 
the search warrant for and arrest of Ellis.

Sheriff's Sgt. Mike McHenry, who credits Lead Investigator Brian Sims 
for his diligent work in following the case, was pleased to hear that 
Ellis pleaded guilty.

"There needs to be significant punishment," said McHenry. "There was 
grave risk to the people involved and the deputies who responded. This 
wasn't a simple prank call. It was elaborate, thought-out and scripted 
to illicit significant armed response and endanger the lives of everyone 

Almost a year ago on March 29, 2007, Ellis began his "swatting" call by 
reporting a drug-overdose. The call came into the Orange County Fire 
Authority at 11:30 p.m. The Sherriff's Department was asked to assist.

Ellis' hoax twisted and turned as patrol cars and fire department 
paramedics rolled to the home of a Lake Forest couple and their two 

The caller changed stories from reporting a drug overdose to talking 
about shooting and killing his sister after she fired a shot at him.

With law enforcement fearing the worst, the Lake Forest home was 
surrounded by patrol cars, the sheriff's Critical Incident Response 
Team, SWAT team members as well as police dogs and helicopters.

The result ended up in a confrontation with the residents at gunpoint, 
detainment and a search of the house.

Officers realized it was a hoax when they found no signs of anything the 
caller had reported.

Ellis' plot was completed by using a service provider on the Internet.

"It didn't take a lot of technical hacking skills," said McHenry. "All 
it required was knowledge of certain services that he used for the wrong 
purpose. I hope this deters other people emulating Mr. Ellis. I would 
hope they think twice before engaging in cyber terrorism."

McHenry said this hoax was one of almost 200 calls Ellis had made. While 
investigators aren't sure all were swatting calls, three other calls 
appeared similar.

Each of the three calls was lengthy and described similarly violent 

Two calls =E2=80=93 to Bullhead City, Ariz., and Milcreek Township, Pa., were 
placed in 2005.

In the Arizona incident, a caller said he shot someone and had law 
enforcement officers who came to investigate in the crosshairs of his 
scope on his machine gun.

In this case, police detained three people until the call was determined 
to be a hoax.

In Pennsylvania, the 911 caller claimed to have shot his sister, leading 
officers to make a forced entry into an unoccupied home.

Authorities said Ellis made another call this year that targeted his 
hometown =E2=80=93 Mukilteo, Wash.

The caller claimed to have shot his family with an AK-47 and threatened 
to shoot any officers who came to his address. He said he had a hostage 
and demanded a getaway car. Police sent a SWAT team and hostage 

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