Andover Teen Who Made Bomb Threats Held Until Age 21

An Andover teenager will be held by the state until he reaches age 21 after he recently pleaded guilty to conspiracy and bomb threat charges.

A judge placed the unidentified 17-year-old male in custody of the Department of Youth Services while prosecutors asked for a three- to five-year state prison sentence, according to Massachusetts State Police Wednesday. He had been under investigation since last April by State Police, Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s office and other agencies after reports of “swatting”—making telephone calls designed to attract police SWAT teams in several states.

“Investigators learned that the teenager had made swatting calls on April 15 to Jordan’s IMAX Theaters in Natick and Reading and had also previously made swatting 911 calls to Florida, New York and Rhode Island,” a statement said. “The juvenile also made calls to residents in Wilmington and Woburn. The juvenile was familiar with more than a dozen locations in Massachusetts that received swatting threats, and was also aware of bomb threats made to locations in Little Falls, N.Y., and Spring Valley, N.Y.”

“Swatting” is a slang term for using the Internet to anonymously make hoax threats, including bomb threats, police said. Investigators determined the teenager was the leader of a group of online hackers who used anonymous Internet service providers to conduct bomb threats and swatting calls across the United States. Investigators interviewed the teenager, who admitted to destroying evidence just prior to police executing a search warrant.

During the search, investigators located an anonabox router—a device that allows a user to anonymously connect to the Internet—in the suspect’s bedroom. Numerous digital devices were also seized for examination and revealed evidence of online messaging between a group of online hackers talking about bomb threats they had conducted, police said. The teen was subsequently indicted by Blodgett’s office.

The investigation was conducted by State Police assigned to the Computer Crimes Unit, Bomb Squad, Crime Scene Services Section and Joint Terrorism Task Force. Assistance was provided by Andover police, Rhode Island State Police, Federal Bureau of Investigations and Homeland Security.