A Delaware man was indicted by a federal grand jury on Tuesday for a string of “swatting” phone calls that targeted individuals and law enforcement agencies throughout the country, including Forsyth County.
According to a statement made by the Department of Justice, indictment documents allege that between August 2015 and August 2017, Rodney Phipps, 29, of Georgetown, Delaware, harassed individuals across the country through an “extensive, multi-faceted swatting campaign”; hoax emergency calls intended to elicit an armed police response from a law enforcement agency or SWAT team.
Phipps is accused of placing calls to police departments and emergency dispatch centers in New Jersey, Louisiana, Kentucky, Florida and Georgia, making false reports that murder, shooting incidents, arson or hostage situations had taken place at a given location.
“Many of the calls also contained explicit threats that the caller would shoot with a firearm any law enforcement personnel who responded to the emergency call,” the DOJ statement reports. “In several instances, those hoax calls provoked significant law enforcement responses to the purported victim’s residences.”
According to David C. Weiss, United States Attorney for the District of Delaware, these situations put the lives of law enforcement officers and bystanders at risk while misdirecting local law enforcement and emergency service resources that could have been used for legitimate emergencies.
Weiss said that based on those facts, his office will prosecute individuals that engage in swatting to the fullest extent allowed by law.
The federal indictment charges Phipps with five counts of making interstate threats and one count of making a false threat involving explosives.
According to the DOJ, interstate threat charges carry a five-year maximum sentence, while the false threat involving explosives charge carries a ten-year maximum.This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation Baltimore Division and will be prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jesse S. Wenger.