| Crime |

The 19-Year-Old Blind "Little Hacker" Gets 135 Months in Federal Prison For "Swatting"

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Kathy Colvin in the U.S. Attorney's Office just sent word that late Friday, Matthew Weigman -- otherwise known as the "Little Hacker" about whom we wrote in January -- was sentenced to 135 months behind bars by U.S. District Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn, who, at this very moment, is presiding over the public corruption trial involving, among others, ex-Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill and former Dallas plan commissioner D'Angelo Lee. Weigman, as you may recall, is the blind 19-year-old who gained national notoriety for his involvement in a so-called "swatting conspiracy" that involved his making threats made against a Verizon security officer who was hot on his trail, an attempt to hack into the U.S. Attorney's voice-mail system in Dallas and the use of party lines to place phony calls to police that wound up sending SWAT teams to innocents' homes. Weigman pleaded guilty in January to one count of conspiracy to retaliate against a witness, victim or an informant, and one count of conspiracy to commit access device fraud and unauthorized access of a protected computer.

Also sentenced was 23-year-old Sean Paul Benton, who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to obstruct justice. Benton received 18 months in prison. The lengthy press release, which someone has surely optioned for the movie rights, follows.


DALLAS - Matthew Weigman, 19, and Sean Paul Benton, 23, were sentenced late Friday afternoon by U.S. District Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn, on their convictions related to their involvement in a swatting conspiracy, announced Acting U.S. Attorney James T. Jacks of the Northern District of Texas. Judge Lynn sentenced Weigman to 135 months, and Benton to 18 months, in prison.  Weigman, of Revere, Massachusetts, who, according to documents filed in the case, is blind, has been in federal custody since his arrest in Boston in May 2008 on related charges. Benton was ordered to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons in August 2009.

Specifically, Weigman, a/k/a "Little Hacker" and "Hacker," pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to retaliate against a witness, victim or an informant, and one count of conspiracy to commit access device fraud and unauthorized access of a protected computer. Benton pled guilty to one count of conspiring to obstruct justice. The third defendant in the case, Carlton Nalley, of Alexandria, Virginia, pled guilty to the same offenses as Weigman. Nalley failed to appear in Court on Friday, and his case will be addressed at a later date.

In documents filed in court, Weigman admitted that he and others, including Stuart Rosoff, Jason Trowbridge, Chad Ward, Guadalupe Martinez, and Angela Roberson (defendants named in the Northern District of Texas indictment of U.S. v. Stuart Rosoff, et al.) made unauthorized access to telecommunication company information stored on protected computers to obtain personal identifying information on their intended targets, and used software and hardware configured to insert or modify telecommunication access devices and account information for telephone customers and employees to obtain free telephone service or to discontinue service for telephone subscribers.

Beginning in June 2003 through May 2008, Weigman participated in multiple telephone party line chat groups with his co-defendant Nalley, the Rosoff defendants and other coconspirators, and they agreed among themselves to make swatting calls to harass targeted individuals. The purpose of the party line was to provide a social network for individuals, many of whom were located in different states, to visit and socialize. To begin a swatting call, Weigman and others would fraudulently obtain the personal identifiers of certain telecommunication employees and impersonate the customer of the targeted telephone number, impersonate the telecommunications employee capable of initiating changes to the targeted telephone number, and/or establish fraudulent telephone accounts.  

Other individuals associated with Weigman pled guilty to swatting-related conduct in the Rosoff case and have been sentenced. Weigman was aware as early as December 2006 that he was a target of a federal investigation when the FBI executed a search warrant at his house. He was aware that the defendants in the Rosoff case pled guilty and were being sentenced. He was also aware that a Verizon fraud investigator, who lived and worked in New Hampshire, was testifying for the government and providing the government with records and documents.

Weigman admitted that he was angered and frustrated by this Verizon investigator's interference and subsequent reporting to FBI, and that he wanted to retaliate against him.  In April and May 2008, Weigman, Nalley, Benton and others conspired to retaliate against him by making telephone calls to Verizon and providing false and misleading information in an attempt to get him fired or reprimanded. Leading up to the calls to Verizon, Weigman manufactured evidence, such as spoofed telephone calls to Nalley's phone, in an effort to provide false evidence of the Verizon investigator's misconduct.

Then, on May 18, 2008, Weigman, his brother and Benton drove to the investigator's residence to intimidate and frighten him. Weigman had told Benton that he had already placed numerous intimidating and harassing calls to the investigator and had been monitoring his phones. They had discussed what they would do if stopped by law enforcement, including providing false names.

When Verizon identified a phone line that Weigman had obtained by fraud in April 2008 and turned that phone line off, Weigman used the identities and authorization codes of Verizon employees to have the phone reactivated. He also used his ability to gain unauthorized access to the phone system to conduct unauthorized electronic monitoring of Verizon employees' phones to harass the employee and obtain information about the status of the investigation against him. He even directed others to obtain personal identifying information of Verizon employees to harass them and used his own social engineering skills to obtain information that his coconspirators couldn't.

From 2004 through 2008, Nalley knew that Weigman and others were accessing protected telephone company computers without authorization and Nalley assisted Weigman by making calls for him, storing information for him, and ordering equipment for him. Nalley also assisted Weigman and other co-conspirators in obtaining credit cards which were for use by the U.S. military.  Nalley stored and used the cards without authorization.

Weigman admitted that in June 2006, he and others agreed to swat Victim #1 of Alvarado, Texas. Victim #1's daughter was a party line participant who lived in Fort Worth, Texas.  Weigman made harassing calls to this victim's residence using a spoof card he had obtained from Rosoff.  Other members of the conspiracy made a swatting call to the victim's residence that resulted in a police response to the residence on June 12, 2006.  The spoofed call made it appear to emergency services that the call was actually made from the victim's residence. The conspirator identified himself as Victim #1 and told the dispatcher that 1) he had shot and killed members of his family; 2) he was holding hostages; 3) he was using hallucinogenic drugs; and 4) he was armed with an AK47. The conspirator demanded $50,000 and transportation and threatened to kill the remaining hostages if his demands were not met. On another occasion, on October 1, 2006, the conspirator called the Fort Worth, Texas, Police Department and again identified himself as Victim #1 and stated that among other things, he had shot and killed members of his family.

From August 2006 through October 2006, Weigman made more than 50 telephone calls to the Verizon Provisioning Center located in Irving, Texas, and using unauthorized access to their computers, obtained telecommunications services including Caller ID blocking and call forwarding.  He also used these Verizon computers to establish new accounts and services to use in concealing the Caller ID of his coconspirators and to terminate services to victims.  Weigman also made unauthorized access to these computers to obtain account subscriber
information which was used to identify personal information for targeting new victims. Weigman bragged about these activities and while he was on the telephone party lines, he and Carlton Nalley would plan and execute their criminal conduct. Weigman, with the assistance of his coconspirators, obtained, via fraud, telephone service for himself and others valued in excess of $30,000.

Weigman, Rosoff, and others provided telephone numbers and pass phrases which were used by coconspirators to obtain unauthorized access to telecommunications service provider computers. They obtained this information by various means including "social engineering" or pretexting of telephone calls to telecommunications company employees, "war dialing," and trafficking in pass phrases and access information with other phone "phreakers," etc. They also used their unauthorized access to terminate services to individuals and to initiate unauthorized services for themselves and others.

During the course of the conspiracy, Weigman requested, participated in, or monitored harassing interstate communications to employers, landlords, families, and friends of multiple party line participants with the intent to damage the reputation of those participants, cause them to lose their jobs, or cause them to be evicted. He and the other coconspirators used their abilities to manipulate the phone system to listen to phone conversations without permission for both pleasure and financial gain. Carlton Nalley assisted Weigman in obtaining credit card numbers and Nalley stored and maintained them for Weigman and other coconspirators to use to purchase computers and other electronic equipment.

Acting U.S. Attorney Jacks praised the investigative efforts of the FBI and the assistance provided by the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts.  Assistant U.S. Attorney C. S. Heath prosecuted the case.

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