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Emergency Services Hack Gets Teen Arrested

Authorities used computer forensics to find and arrest a teenager who allegedly made a false 911 call that resulted in a homeowner staring into the barrels of a SWAT team's assault rifles.

Around midnight on the evening of March 29, 2007, a Lake Forest, Calif., man awoke to the sound of what he took to be a prowler. Concerned for the safety of his wife and two toddlers, he armed himself with a kitchen knife and stepped into his back yard to find himself staring into the barrels of a SWAT team's assault rifles.

The man and his wife were both handcuffed at gunpoint and held until the SWAT team determined that the report that brought them to the house -- a call that claimed someone had been shot and killed in the house and that further killing would take place -- was a prank.

This incident is described in a statement issued by Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney for Orange County, Calif., which says that the alleged perpetrator of the prank, Randall Ellis, 19, of Mulkiteo, Wash., was arrested last week though the use of forensic computer technology and is scheduled to be arraigned on Monday in Santa Ana, Calif.

A spokesperson for the Orange County District Attorney declined to provide more details about the investigation.

Ellis is charged with one felony count of computer access and fraud, two felony counts of false imprisonment by violence, one misdemeanor count of falsely reporting a crime, and two felony counts of assault with an assault weapon by proxy.

The assault by proxy charge represents an attempt to hold the defendant responsible for initiating the series of actions that put the victims of the prank at gunpoint.

Ellis allegedly hacked into the 911 system in Orange County from his home in Washington. Having allegedly chosen the Lake Forest couple at random and obtained their names by calling their home, Ellis is believed to have placed a fake call to an Orange Country emergency operator claiming that someone had been shot at the couple's home and threatening further violence.

Ellis is also accused of making similar prank calls to 911 systems in Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

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