PITTSBURGH, PA – A resident of Dunbar, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty in federal court to a charge of interstate threats, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.
Nicholas Huffine, age 20, pleaded guilty to one count before Senior United States District Judge Donetta W. Ambrose.
In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that Huffine participated in a practice known as “swatting,” in which he, along with others, made hoax emergency telephone calls to the Winter Garden, Florida, Police Department, and falsely reported an ongoing, dangerous crime in order to elicit an armed police response (from a SWAT team, hence the term “swatting”) to a specific location, in order to harass someone whom he believed was there. The calls resulted in emergency personnel being deployed, as well as physical damage due to forced entry to one of the residences where Huffine directed the law enforcement officers.
“Swatting is terrifying to victims, as well as highly dangerous as law enforcement agents operate under the belief that they are responding to the scene of active and ongoing violent criminal activity,” said U.S. Attorney Brady.
Judge Ambrose scheduled sentencing for January 9, 2020. The law provides for a total sentence of five years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offense and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
Assistant United States Attorney Jessica Lieber Smolar is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Huffine.