CALIFORNIA (WHNT) — Two young men have been charged with carrying out a “swatting spree” over the span of one week in November as they allegedly hacked into a dozen Ring doorbell cameras across the country, including Chesapeake, and live-streamed police response.
Kya Christian Nelson, 21, of Racine, Wisconsin, and James Thomas Andrew McCarty, 20, of Charlotte, North Carolina were indicted by a federal grand jury last week.
The federal indictment returned last week said from November 7, 2020, to November 13, 2020, the pair allegedly “gained access” to several home security door cameras sold by Ring LLC, after they allegedly obtained login information for Yahoo email accounts to victims across the nation.
Nelson and McCarty are then accused of calling 911 where those victims lived and making fake reports, intending to generate an emergency response to their homes, the indictment alleges. The act has been termed “swatting.”
Nelson, also known as “ChumLul,” and McCarty, a.k.a. “Aspertaine,” are also accused of accessing the Ring devices and live-streaming the audio and video on social media as authorities responded to the hoax calls, while allegedly taunting officers and residents through the cameras.
One incident in West Covina, Calif. alleges Nelson and an “accomplice” called police there, posing as a minor reporting her parents drinking and shooting guns inside the house. Nelson is accused of using the Ring camera to taunt officers as they arrived at the home.
In another incident in Florida, McCarty, Nelson and an unindicted co-conspirator (who is a juvenile) called the police department, claiming to be a man who had just killed his wife, the indictment said. He was also accused of saying that he had a hostage in the home and that he had rigged it with explosives.
Other similar incidents are said to have happened in Flat Rock, Michigan; Redding, California; Billings, Montana; Decatur, Georgia; Chesapeake, Virginia; Rosenberg, Texas; Oxnard, California; Darien, Illinois; North Port, Florida; and Katy, Texas.
The series of swatting incidents prompted the FBI to issue a public service announcement, urging anyone with smart home devices with cameras and voice capabilities to use more complex passwords to prevent similar attacks.
Nelson is currently incarcerated in Kentucky after he allegedly called police there in January 2021 saying there was an active shooter at a local school.
He pleaded guilty in March 2022 and was sentenced to seven years in prison.
McCarty is also accused of making at least 18 calls to police and schools threatening attacks.
Earlier this month, multiple schools across North Alabama were affected by swatting incidents. Those hoax calls are currently still under investigation.
Both are charged with one count of conspiracy to intentionally access computers without authorization. Nelson also was charged with two counts of intentionally accessing without authorization a computer and two counts of aggravated identity theft.
If convicted of conspiracy, each of the men faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison. Conviction of intentionally accessing the devices without authorization carries a maximum sentence of five years, while the charge of aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory two-year consecutive sentence.
The FBI is continuing to investigate.