A Georgetown man has received a prison sentence of 37 months for his guilty plea in a “swatting” investigation that prosecutors said involved false reports to police departments and emergency dispatch centers in several states.
30-year-old Rodney Phipps pled guilty in January to five counts of making interstate threats and one count of making a false threat involving explosives, according to U.S. Attorney for the District of Delaware David Weiss. “Swatting” involves making false reports in order to elicit an armed police response such as a SWAT team at an intended target.
“Swatting phone calls are not harmless pranks. Those who engage in swatting activity intentionally create a serious risk of physical harm to law enforcement officers, the intended victims, and innocent bystanders,” Weiss said. “Swatting calls also disrupt the operations of local emergency response agencies by misdirecting resources that could be needed for legitimate emergencies. My office will continue to prosecute those who engage in swatting activity to the fullest extent allowed by law and will seek sentences that reflect the serious danger created by such conduct.”
Court documents indicate that law enforcement agencies and emergency dispatch centers in several states between August 2015 and August 2017. The calls indicated possible crimes such as murder, a shooting, arson or a hostage situation had taken place or would take place. Many of the calls, according to prosecutors, also involved threats to shoot responding law enforcement personnel. There was an extensive law enforcement response to the alleged victims’ residences in several cases.
“These calls are dangerous not only to the victims but also to first responders who are placed in danger as unsuspecting residents try to defend themselves. The communities are also placed in danger as responders rush to the scene, taking them away from real emergencies,” FBI Baltimore field office Special Agent in Charge Jennifer Boone said. “The FBI works closely with law enforcement partners and continues to collect investigative information to help identify key individuals and groups conducting swatting incidents such as today’s sentence reflects. We will continue such efforts to stop these crimes and perpetrators from continuing these dangerous hoaxes.”