This story has been updated to clarify how police believe the suspects gained access to the Ring accounts.
(WHNT) — Two men have been accused carrying out a “swatting spree” over the span of one week in November as they allegedly gained unauthorized access to a dozen Ring doorbell cameras across the country and live-streamed police response.
Kya Christian Nelson, 21, of Racine, Wisconsin, and James Thomas Andrew McCarty, 20, of Charlotte, North Carolina were indicted by a federal grand jury last week.
The federal indictment said in November 2020, the pair allegedly “gained access” to several home security door cameras sold by Ring LLC. They allegedly obtained login information from Yahoo email accounts.
Nelson and McCarty are then accused of calling 911 to the victims’ addresses and making fake reports, intending to generate an emergency response to their homes. The act is called “swatting.”
Nelson, also known as “ChumLul,” and McCarty, a.k.a. “Aspertaine,” are also accused of live-streaming the audio and video on social media as authorities responded to the hoax calls, while allegedly taunting officers and residents through the cameras.
One incident in West Covina, California, alleges Nelson and an “accomplice” called police there, posing as a minor reporting her parents drinking and shooting guns inside the house. Nelson is accused of using the Ring camera to taunt officers as they arrived at the home.
In another incident in Florida, McCarty, Nelson and an unindicted co-conspirator (who is a juvenile) called the police department, claiming to be a man who had just killed his wife, the indictment said. He was also accused of saying that he had a hostage in the home and that he had rigged it with explosives.
Other similar incidents are said to have happened in Flat Rock, Michigan; Redding, California; Billings, Montana; Decatur, Georgia; Chesapeake, Virginia; Rosenberg, Texas; Oxnard, California; Darien, Illinois; Huntsville, Alabama; North Port, Florida; and Katy, Texas.
The series of swatting incidents prompted the FBI to issue a public service announcement, urging anyone with smart home devices to use more complex passwords to prevent similar attacks.
Nelson is currently incarcerated in Kentucky for a different crime. He called police in January 2021 to report an active shooter at a local school.
He pleaded guilty in March 2022 and was sentenced to seven years in prison.
McCarty is also accused of making at least 18 calls to police and schools threatening attacks.
Both Nelson and McCarty are charged with one count of conspiracy to intentionally access computers without authorization. Nelson was also charged with two counts of intentionally accessing without authorization a computer and two counts of aggravated identity theft.
If convicted of conspiracy, each of the men faces a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison. Conviction of intentionally accessing the devices without authorization carries an additional maximum sentence of five years, while the charge of aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory two-year consecutive sentence.
The FBI continues to investigate.