Fayette County man admits ‘swatting’ online gaming opponent after dispute
A Fayette County man pleaded guilty in federal court this week for making hoax emergency phone calls to a Florida police department following an argument with an online gaming opponent, according to federal court records.
Nicholas Huffine, 20, pleaded guilty to interstate threats, U.S. Attorney Scott Brady said.
Huffine participated in “swatting,” or making a fictitious report of a violent crime, prompting an emergency response from armed police units, such as a SWAT team, to an innocent person’s home, Brady said. He made phone calls on Jan. 24, 2017, to police in Winter Garden, Fla., and reported that he was armed and holding his family hostage at a home there, according to court records. Huffine claimed to be a person in Florida with whom he had been involved in a disagreement while playing video games online, according to federal authorities.
Huffine threatened to hurt officers responding to the scene during the bogus report that drew an emergency response. He was indicted June 25.
“’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 in a statement.
Huffine is scheduled for sentencing Jan. 9.
“Swatting” has been going on for several years. In Westmoreland County, Washington Township police were sent to a home in 2013 where a violent domestic attack was reported. After numerous search warrants, investigators learned the false report was made by a juvenile male in Georgia who had been conversing over the internet with a girl living at the Washington Township home.
In 2014, authorities were sent to a Jeannette home after Westmoreland 911 dispatchers received a suspicious text. Instead, they found a surprised homeowner.
The incidents have the potential to be dangerous. A California man was sentenced earlier this year in federal court to 20 years in prison for making false emergency calls across the country, including one that resulted in police fatally shooting a Kansas man. Authorities said those calls were connected to online disputes during video gaming.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter .