A North Carolina teenager has been arrested and accused of phoning in bomb threats to schools and universities so he could charge admission for people to watch in real time over webcams as police responded.
Ashton C. Lundeby, 16, of Oxford, North Carolina took part in a group that used VoIP, or voice over IP, software and online gaming services to pull off the public stunts, which attracted hundreds of spectators, according to documents filed in federal court in Indiana Wednesday. Lundeby made bomb threats against 13 colleges or schools from the middle of 2008 through early March, prosecutors allege.
"The conspirators created a 'channel' over which members of the conspiracy could broadcast their misdeeds to as many as three hundred (300) individuals simultaneously," the indictment states. "The audience was then able to hear the hoax bomb threat call, or other threat, and watch the law enforcement response or the public evacuation on the channel."
The allegations reflect the latest wrinkle in a practice known as swatting, in which miscreants use caller ID spoofing to falsely report emergencies to authorities with the goal of eliciting a response from law enforcement officials, who sometimes are deployed from SWAT, or special weapons and tactics units. The allegations are breathtaking because they portray the participants as barbarians who brazenly turned the dangerous practice into a spectator sport.
Lundeby, who often went under the pseudonym Tyrone, was arrested on March 6 and remains in federal custody, prosecutors said. They had to file a motion seeking permission to try the juvenile as an adult. Federal law sets substantial restraints for the prosecution of minors.
Attempts to reach an attorney representing Lundeby for comment were unsuccessful.
Lundeby and his cohorts targeted institutions that used net-based surveillance cameras. They would then set up channels on gaming sites that would deliver the audio of the calls falsely reporting bombs were planted and the video of the location where the bomb was said to be located.
In one incident on February 15, the crew phoned in a false report of a bomb left at a location on the campus of Purdue University. To add credibility, a second person left a second emergency report claiming to have witnessed someone sneaking devices onto computers. They also employed caller ID spoofing to make the claims more convincing.
The crew ran a website called partyvanpranks.com that brazenly advertised the bomb threats and solicited fees for visitors to watch them in progress, prosecutors said. The gang also offered to close schools in exchange for nominal fees by making bomb threats.
Lundeby's crew also phoned in bomb threats to the FBI, prosecutors said. Besides Purdue, other universities that were targeted included the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Florida State University, Tallahassee; Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina; and Boston College. A variety of schools in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kansas, Connecticut, and Georgia were also targeted. ®