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Published on May 23, 2024
Riverside Man Indicted for Allegedly Orchestrating Swatting Spree, Faces Multiple Charges Including Stalking and Threat HoaxesSource: U.S. Courts

A Riverside County man has found himself on the wrong side of the law, slapped with an 18-count indictment for allegedly engaging in a terrorizing spree of "swatting" attacks. Eduardo Vicente Pelayo Rodriguez, 31, of Riverside, faces charges that include one count of stalking, seven counts of transmitting threats in interstate commerce, seven counts of engaging in hoaxes, and three counts of transmitting threats or false information regarding fire and explosives, the Justice Department reported yesterday.

The chilling indictment, returned by a federal grand jury on May 16 and unsealed today, paints Rodriguez as a man who allegedly went to great lengths to instill fear, impersonating his victim via a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service to procure more than a dozen calls. His alleged threats ranged from mass shootings at schools to bombing Nashville International Airport while invoking the name of ISIS. He was arrested Tuesday, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Riverside informed the public, with his arraignment set for this afternoon.

Swatting, the act of falsely reporting emergencies to redirect law enforcement or emergency services to an unsuspecting victim's location, can spark real-world chaos, as seen in Rodriguez's accusations of threatening schools in the Inland Empire, Sandy Hook, and the Tennessee airport. According to the Justice Department's announcement, these threats led law enforcement to respond, only to find that the calls were untrue.

United States Attorney Martin Estrada did not mince words, saying, "The sorts of ‘swatting’ crimes alleged against this defendant are highly troubling," and asserting that such acts are designed to "cause maximum fear and trigger an emergency response." Krysti Hawkins, the Acting Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office, continued the sentiment, highlighting the "callous targeting of an open wound at Sandy Hook, without regard for the potential consequences of this insidious type of hoax."

The seriousness of these actions is reflected in the potential penalties. If convicted, Rodriguez could face up to five years in federal prison for each threat and hoax count, and a decade for the counts relating to fire and explosives. It's clear that the FBI and local partners are not treating these threats lightly, intent on holding perpetrators accountable to the full extent of the law. The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force leads the investigation, with substantial support from various local law enforcement agencies. Assistant United States Attorney Jenna W. Long from the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section is the one prosecuting the case.