An online prankster has become the first British citizen charged in the United States for “Swatting”, a growing trend of using local law enforcement to raid innocent people’s homes as a prank.

The man, Robert McDaid, has been charged with three offenses, and if convicted could face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

McDaid is said to have called a terrorism hotline in the United States posing as Tyran Dobbs, and reported taking hostages at his home. He then threatened to kill three people and demanded the police arrive with $15,000 in cash.

Believing the threat to be real, the police arrived at the real Tyran Dobb’s home and raided it, expecting a hostage situation. In the ensuing confusion, Dobbs was shot in the face with a rubber bullet, causing extensive damage that has required months of rehabilitation.

Another man, a U.S. citizen named Zachary Lee, is said to have conspired with McDaid to order the “swatting”, and faces similar charges.

The practice of swatting has been on the rise over the last few years, and it predominately affects the gaming community. A standard swatting scenario may look like this: a gamer who is live streaming themselves on the internet playing games will somehow irritate or offend another gamer, who then using very simple caller I.D. blocking technology or internet phone services will call their local police department and make a bogus threat, giving the police the address of their victim.

As you can see, the victim is oblivious that a highly-armed SWAT team is about to make entry on their house. In some cases, like the one with Tyran Dobbs, it can end with the victims being unintentionally hurt.

The FBI estimates that swatting occurs 400 times a year across the U.S., and it has gotten so bad that a Congresswoman from Massachusetts introduced a bill to make swatting a felony. Perhaps not surprisingly, that Congresswoman became a victim herself when her home was swatted not long afterwards.

Many times, the victim did nothing to warrant a swatting. As has been documented before, some criminals have targeted females with swatting who had otherwise resisted other forms of harassment up that point.

The Department of Justice is working with U.K. law enforcement authorities to ensure McDaid is “held accountable for his alleged actions because the alleged criminal activity represents a grave threat to public safety.”

Image courtesy of the Daily Mail