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Ring doorbell ‘swatting’ and livestream scheme leads to charges for pair from Wisconsin, North Carolina

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Two men have been charged with illegally gaining access to Ring home security cameras in a series of swatting schemes to live stream the police response to the bogus emergencies, federal prosecutors said Monday. 

Kya Christian Nelson, 21, a Wisconsin resident, and Thomas Andrew McCarty, 20, of North Carolina, are charged with one count of conspiracy to intentionally access computers without authorization. Nelson is also charged with two counts of intentionally accessing without authorization a computer and two counts of aggravated identity theft.

Swatting is a form of retaliation in which someone makes a false report to police to send first responders, including SWAT teams, to someone’s address.

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The U.S. Department of Justice has charged two people with “swatting” of homes over the course of a week in November 2020. 
(Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Nelson is incarcerated in Kentucky for an unrelated case, the Justice Department said. McCarty was arrested last week in Arizona.

The pair allegedly gained access to home security cameras throughout the country from Nov. 7 – 13 in 2020. They obtained access to the Ring devices by hacking the Yahoo! email accounts belonging to victims, authorities said. 

“Swatting is a serious crime, and those responsible for it should be brought to justice,” A Ring statement to Fox News Digital said. “In this case, we learned bad actors used stolen customer email credentials obtained from external (non-Ring) services to access other accounts, and took immediate steps to help those customers secure their Ring accounts.”

The company said it also supported FBI efforts to catch those responsible. 

“We take the security of our customers extremely seriously—that’s why we made two-step verification mandatory, conduct regular scans for Ring passwords compromised in non-Ring breaches, and continually invest in new security protections to harden our systems,” it said. “We are committed to continuing to protect our customers and vigorously going after those who seek to harm them.”

After aging access to the Ring cameras, Nelson and McCarty allegedly made false emergency reports to local law enforcement agencies where the victims live in an effort to elicit a police response to their homes. Using the security camera information, they then live-streamed the audio and video from the devices on social media during the police response, authorities said. 

They also taunted the victims through the Ring devices. 

On Nov. 8, Nelson and someone else placed a call to the West Covina, California, police department supposedly from a victim’s home. They posed as a child reporting that her parents drinking and shooting weapons inside the home, the DOJ said.

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Nelson threatened and taunted West Covina police officers who responded. 

Prosecutors said similar incidents occurred in Flat Rock, Michigan; Redding, California; Billings, Montana; Decatur, Georgia; Chesapeake, Virginia; Rosenberg, Texas; Oxnard, California; Darien, Illinois; Huntsville, Alabama; North Port, Florida; and Katy, Texas.

Nelson faces 12 years in prison. McCarty faces five years. 

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