WILMINGTON, Del. – David C. Weiss, United States Attorney for the District of Delaware, announced today that Rodney Phipps, 30, of Georgetown, was sentenced today to 37 months in prison by the Honorable Richard G. Andrews, United States District Judge for the District of Delaware.
Phipps pled guilty in January 2020 to five counts of making interstate threats and one count of making a false threat involving explosives in relation to a string of “swatting” phone calls he made to police departments and emergency dispatch centers across the country. “Swatting” involves making hoax emergency calls in order to elicit an armed police response (e.g., from a SWAT team) for the purpose of harassing someone believed to be at the location of the purported emergency.
According to court documents, from August 2015 through August 2017, Phipps placed swatting calls from Delaware to police departments and emergency dispatch centers across the country, including calls to Harrison, New Jersey; Opelousas, Louisiana; Russel County, Kentucky; Pasco County, Florida; and Forsyth County, Georgia. Those swatting calls included false reports that murder, shooting incidents, arson, and a hostage situation had taken place or would take place.
Many of the calls also contained explicit threats that the caller would shoot with a firearm any law enforcement personnel who responded to the emergency call. In several instances, those hoax calls provoked significant law enforcement responses to the purported victim’s residences.
U.S. Attorney Weiss stated, “Swatting phone calls are not harmless pranks. Those who engage in swatting activity intentionally create a serious risk of physical harm to law enforcement officers, the intended victims, and innocent bystanders. Swatting calls also disrupt the operations of local emergency response agencies by misdirecting resources that could be needed for legitimate emergencies. My office will continue to prosecute those who engage in swatting activity to the fullest extent allowed by law and will seek sentences that reflect the serious danger created by such conduct.”
“These calls are dangerous not only to the victims but also to first responders who are placed in danger as unsuspecting residents try to defend themselves. The communities are also placed in danger as responders rush to the scene, taking them away from real emergencies. The FBI works closely with law enforcement partners and continues to collect investigative information to help identify key individuals and groups conducting swatting incidents such as today’s sentence reflects. We will continue such efforts to stop these crimes and perpetrators from continuing these dangerous hoaxes,” said Jennifer C. Boone, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Baltimore field office.
This case is being investigated by FBI-Baltimore Division’s Wilmington Resident Office and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jesse S. Wenger.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware. Related court documents and information is located on the website of the District Court for the District of Delaware or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:19-cr-69.