A Dunbar man who made phony emergency telephone calls to a Florida police department pleaded guilty to a charge of interstate threats in federal court.
Nicholas Huffine, 20, reported a non-existent crime to the Winter Garden Police Department, prompting an armed police response, federal prosecutors said. He did so to harass a person he believed was at the location after an online gaming dispute, authorities said.
“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 law enforcement officers,” U.S. Attorney Scott W. Brady said in a release.
Authorities called the fake call a case of “swatting,” taken from the desire to prompt a response from a police SWAT team.
“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,” Brady said.
An indictment filed in the case alleged Huffine told police he was an armed man holding his family hostage, had already killed his father and was holding a gun to his son’s head. He also threatened to shoot or blow up any responding police in the January 2017 call.
Authorities said Huffine and others made four calls to police in Florida in which they identified themselves as someone with the initials C.N.
The indictment indicated Huffine and the others who participated in the fake calls knew C.N. from their online gaming community and recently had a gaming-related dispute with that person.
Huffine will be sentenced in January, and could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.