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Coquitlam teen 'swatter' jailed for cyberbullying attacks

A Coquitlam teen who "swatted" the homes and schools of young gamers around North America — and threatened to blow up Simon Fraser University and the Space Mountain ride in Disneyland — will stay behind bars until next March.
A Coquitlam teen was sentenced today to 16 months in jail for hacking and swatting young gamers around North America, most of them female.

A Coquitlam teen who "swatted" the homes and schools of young gamers around North America — and threatened to blow up Simon Fraser University and the Space Mountain ride in Disneyland — will stay behind bars until next March.

This morning, Port Coquitlam provincial court Judge Patricia Janzen spent an hour reading her verdict before the 17-year-old, whose name can't be published because of his age, as well as his mother and a throng of media following the sensational case.

("Swatting" is the practice of using computer technology to call police in different cities, causing them to respond to a targeted home with their special weapons and tactics teams. The victims have no knowledge of the situation until confronted by armed officers.)

Janzen gave the teen a 16-month custodial sentence followed by an eight-month community supervision order. He has been in youth detention since last December and received credit for time served.

But the mother of one of his American swatting victims, who also cannot be named, told The Tri-City News afterward the sentence doesn't go far enough and the trial should have been raised to adult court.

"He's malicious," she said. "It wasn't just some kid being stupid. He's truly scary."

The mom added: "He's 17, almost 18, years old and definitely understands right from wrong. He's responsible for his choices. Through all those recordings of him on YouTube where he's recording himself swatting other people, he knows."

During a hearing in May, the judge heard how the teen had placed an eight-hour live stream of himself getting police to SWAT the homes of young gamers he'd met online.

He was arrested by Coquitlam RCMP on Dec. 1, 2014, after about a year of cyberbullying.

He admitted to 23 out of 46 counts of public mischief, uttering threats, harassment and extortion as well as a breach of recognizance for using a computer.

The court heard how the teen had a similar pattern to his crimes: When he tried to befriend young gamers (most of them women) and they rejected him, he sought out revengeful hacking tactics that destroyed their and their parents' credit ratings, cut off their utilities and other services, and swatted their homes, usually late at night.

He would tell local police he had a family held hostage, had killed someone in the home or was planning to murder or commit suicide. Bombs and assault rifles were suggested as well as claims for $20,000 in ransom.

In one case, in Waterloo, Ont., he posted a false Craigslist ad claiming the young gamer was seeking sex with a black man. In other incident, he called a parent and threatened to rape his daughter if he didn't get his way.

In Fort Meade, Polk County, Fla., he told a school switchboard operator he was on his way to kill everyone on campus — that event prompted an immediate lockdown. He told the operator he had an "Arabic-sounding name" and spoke of Allah.

As well, cabs and pizzas were falsely ordered to young gamers' homes and indecent photos were posted for public consumption, the court heard.

He also claimed to have planted bombs around Simon Fraser University and the Space Mountain ride in Disneyland; the Anaheim, Calif., theme park was shut down during the police investigation.

Judge Janzen said the ramifications of the boy's crimes ranged from inconvenience to catastrophe. She spoke about how his 29 victims have suffered and how most have been forced to change their personal information to prevent further online identity fraud.

The mother who spoke with The Tri-City News on Thursday said her credit score had dropped as a result and, earlier this week, she received a letter in the mail from police in Richmond, Calif., who said they had arrested a hacker whose notebook contained her name, personal information and social insurance number. She has had to hire an expert to repair her credit history.

Still, despite the extent of terror the teen wreaked last year across North America, and the waste of police resources, the judge took pity on him after reading reports from a psychiatrist, psychologist and social worker, all of whom painted him as a "deeply troubled young person who has a very high risk to reoffend."

The psychiatrist spoke about the teen's sadistic pleasure in distressing others online to gain notoriety among his peer group. He lacked remorse, had no feelings for his targets and had "quite severe narcissism."

The psychologist noted his psychopathic traits, having a "grandiose sense of self worth," callous actions and a yearning for social isolation while the social worker wrote about the teen's upbringing: He witnessed domestic abuse, addiction by his father and depression and neglect by his mother.

"She was unable to be an effective parent for you," the judge told the teen, who sat quietly in the dock and often swept his long brown hair to the side.

The judge said the boy had excelled in academics until Grade 4, when his father returned home. By then, his grade slipped and his school work continued to spiral out of control.

"You stopped trying in school and life," the judge said, adding later, "Your last seven to eight years of your life have been a waste of time. You need to care again about yourself and others. You need to make friends. You need to reintegrate into the real world and grow up."

In delivering her verdict, Janzen also suggested the teen's probation worker "explore other options" than returning him to his mother's home when he gets out of jail next year. He is also banned from using computer devices as well as drugs and alcohol, and has been ordered to go to school.