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Man sentenced in ‘swatting’ case

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A Roswell man received a 27-month prison sentence Wednesday for phoning in bomb threats to a Walmart and an elementary school in Georgetown, Delaware.

Judge Richard G. Andrews, U.S. Judge for the District of Delaware, sentenced Stephen Scott Landes, 29, Wednesday on one count of interstate threats concerning the use of explosives, according to a press release from the office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Delaware.

Andrews pleaded guilty to the charge in August.

The threats had been called in May 9, 2018 by Landes, who was “swatting” a Georgetown resident he had been in a longstanding feud with. “Swatting” is when someone reports a false emergency that results in an armed police response meant to harass an individual believed to be at the location of the purported emergency.

Jennifer C. Boone, special agent in charge at the FBI Baltimore field office, stated in the press release issued Wednesday that Landes’ swatting campaign caused significant angst, alarm and the unnecessary use of law enforcement resources.

“FBI Baltimore, working jointly with the Delaware State Police, the Georgetown Police Department and the Delaware United States Attorney’s Office, hopes this sentence will deter others from engaging in similar criminal conduct,” Boone said in the release.

Landes called a Walmart in Georgetown May 9, 2018 at 1:43 p.m. from his Roswell residence, according to court documents. He asked to speak to the manager of the store and then identified himself as a certain Georgetown resident, identified in court documents as “victim 1.”

Landes then falsely claimed he was in a restroom in the store with a bomb and a child hostage. He then threatened to blow the store up if $20,000 was not left outside the restroom. He said the manager had five minutes to evacuate the store.

At 1:56 p.m. that same day, Landes made a call to Georgetown Elementary School, where he falsely claimed he had two children buried alive in a basement and that there were bombs planted both in the school and in the basement, according to court documents.

The person who picked up the phone attempted to talk to Landes and diffuse the situation, but Landes responded by swearing at the individual. The school was then placed on lockdown and the police were called.

No bombs were found at either of the locations.

David Weiss, U.S. Attorney for the District of Delaware, who had prosecuted the case, stated in the press release that Landes purposely targeted the elementary school because of the intense response he knew that it would elicit from law enforcement.

“Approximately 2,000 children were impacted by the defendant’s unconscionable actions. Children in our community deserve to attend school free from the fear and confusion caused by threats of this kind. Swatting calls also put law enforcement, the intended targets and innocent bystanders at unnecessary risk. My Office will prosecute those who engage in swatting activity to the fullest extent allowed by law and will seek sentences that reflect the seriousness of the offense,” Weiss said.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.