Kya Christian Nelson and James Thomas Andrew McCarty are accused in a national Ring camera swatting spree in which authorities say they livestreamed police response and taunted responding officers through the cameras.
Both men are also accused in other cases of making false 911 calls to schools, including false reports of an active shooter. Swatting is when people make hoax calls to law enforcement to generate a large police response.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, California, announced in a press release that a grand jury had indicted Nelson and McCarty on December 19, 2022, in a “swatting scheme that took over Ring doorbells across U.S. to livestream police response to fake calls.”
According to the release, the ring-related swatting incidents occurred in Flat Rock, Michigan; Redding, California; Billings, Montana; Decatur, Georgia; Chesapeake, Virginia; Rosenberg, Texas; Oxnard, California; Darien, Illinois; Huntsville, Alabama; North Port, Florida; West Covina, California; and Katy, Texas.
Nelson is from Wisconsin and McCarty is from North Carolina.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Prosecutors Say the Men Gained Access to a Dozen Ring Home Security Cameras Across the United States, Placed Bogus 911 Calls & Then Taunted Arriving Police Officers
The two men “have been charged with participating in a “swatting” spree that, over a one-week span, gained access to a dozen Ring home security door cameras nationwide,” the DOJ press release said. The release said the men “placed bogus emergency phone calls designed to elicit an armed police response, then livestreamed the events on social media, sometimes while taunting responding police officers, the Justice Department announced today.” The full indictment can be read here.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in the press release, “According to the indictment returned Friday afternoon by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles, from November 7, 2020, to November 13, 2020, Nelson and McCarty gained access to home security door cameras sold by Ring LLC, a home security technology company. Nelson and McCarty allegedly acquired without authorization the username and password information for Yahoo email accounts belonging to victims throughout the United States.”
The release added, “Then, they allegedly determined whether the owner of each compromised Yahoo account also had a Ring account using the same email address and password that could control associated internet-connected Ring doorbell camera devices. Using that information, they identified and gathered additional information about their victims, according to the indictment.”
According to the indictment, investigators said Nelson and McCarty would then make “false emergency reports or telephone calls” to local police in the area where the victims live. The calls were made to get an emergency police response sent to the victim’s home, according to the indictment released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutors said, “The defendants then allegedly accessed without authorization the victims’ Ring devices and transmitted the audio and video from those devices on social media during the police response. They also allegedly verbally taunted responding police officers and victims through the Ring devices during several of the incidents.”
2. Nelson Is Currently Incarcerated in Kentucky on a Different Case Accusing Him of Making Terroristic Threats to a Local School
According to the DOJ release, Kya Christian Nelson is known as “ChumLul,” and is 21 years old and from Racine, Wisconsin.
Nelson is “currently incarcerated in Kentucky in an unrelated case,” the DOJ release says. According to VINE LINK, Nelson has been in the Fulton County, Kentucky, detention center since July 2022.
The Fulton County Jail records say Nelson is incarcerated in Kentucky on accusations of terroristic threats.
The Murray Ledger reported that Nelson called in “two separate threats to Murray High School” in Kentucky and was sentenced to seven years in prison. he was accused of reporting a false active shooting on a school to police dispatch in January 2021, generating a police response to the school because it was determined it was false. The next day, he is accused of calling in a bomb threat.
He was arrested by Kentucky authorities at his home in Racine, Wisconsin, the article reported.
Calloway Circuit Judge Jamie Jameson chastised Nelson during his sentencing hearing.
“I’m sure in my youth there were more silly things I did than I care to remember, and some that I probably should have been punished a bit more for than I was,” Jameson said, according to Murray Ledger. “But it never rose to something like this, and that’s the difference here. There are young people who make silly mistakes, but most of them are dealt with in District Court downstairs because they don’t rise to the severity of what happened here. This could have been a very dangerous situation, and it certainly alarmed a lot of people, including folks who work in this courthouse.”
In Wisconsin, Nelson has an open 2021 criminal misdemeanor case for “Alter Identity Marks-Manuf’r Property.” Nelson was released in that case on $400 cash bond. In April 2021, bond was forfeited and a warrant issued when Nelson did not appear in court, according to court records. The case was never resolved. There is also a 2021 Wisconsin case in which his extradition to Kentucky was approved, court records say.
A Facebook page for Nelson was deleted.
James Thomas Andrew McCarty also goes by the name “Aspertaine.” He is 20 years old and is from Charlotte, North Carolina, but he lived in Kayenta, Arizona, at the time he is accused of swatting the victims, the release says.
McCarty and Nelson were charged “with one count of conspiracy to intentionally access computers without authorization. Nelson also was charged with two counts of intentionally accessing without authorization a computer and two counts of aggravated identity theft,” the release says.
3. McCarty Is Also Accused of Telling an Indiana School He Was About to Start Shooting
On December 15, 2022, McCarty was arrested in Charlotte, North Carolina, and accused of calling schools and police departments throughout the country in hoax calls, according to WBTV.
According to the television station, in one of those instances, McCarty “told police in New Jersey that he killed one person, hurt another, and would blow up a house.” In another, he told an Indiana school that he was a student who was about to become an active shooter. In Ohio, he lied to police that he had “four bombs outside of a retail store,” WBTV reported.
McCarty was charged in Arizona federal court with nine counts of making a false statement, nine counts of false information and hoax, one count of stalking and six counts of aggravated identity theft, according to court records viewed by Heavy. In the indictment, obtained by Heavy, McCarty is accused of making 18 calls to police departments and schools threatening attacks. The calls were made to schools in Georgia, New Jersey, Indiana, Oklahoma, Ohio and Indiana, prosecutors said in the indictment.
4. McCarty & Nelson, Who Face Several Years in Federal Prison if Convicted of the Charges, Caused the FBI to Issue a Nationwide Security Alert About Smart Home Devices, Prosecutors Say
“If they were to be convicted of the conspiracy charge in the indictment, each defendant would face a statutory maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. The charge of intentionally accessing without authorization a computer carries a maximum possible sentence of five years, and the charge of aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory two-year consecutive sentence,” prosecutors said about Nelson and McCarty in the press release. The FBI is continuing to investigate, according to the press release.
According to the press release, “This series of swatting incidents prompted the FBI in late 2020 to issue a public service announcement urging users of smart home devices with cameras and voice capabilities to use complex, unique passwords and enable two-factor authentication to help protect against swatting attacks.”
In the FBI’s announcement, they said, “Recently, offenders have been using victims’ smart devices, including video and audio capable home surveillance devices, to carry out swatting attacks. To gain access to the smart devices, offenders are likely taking advantage of customers who re-use their email passwords for their smart device. The offenders use stolen email passwords to log into the smart device and hijack features, including the live-stream camera and device speakers.”
The announcement included tips for people who use the devices:
Users of smart home devices with cameras and/or voice capabilities are advised of the following guidance to maximize security.
– Because offenders are using stolen email passwords to access smart devices, users should practice good cyber hygiene by ensuring they have strong, complex passwords or passphrases for their online accounts, and should not duplicate the use of passwords between different online accounts. Users should update their passwords on a regular basis.
– Users should enable two-factor authentication for their online accounts and on all devices accessible through an internet connection in order to reduce the chance a criminal could access their devices.
– It is highly recommended that the user’s second factor for two-factor or multi-factor authentication be a mobile device number and not a secondary e-mail account.
The FBI added, “The FBI is working with private sector partners who manufacture smart devices to advise customers about the scheme and how to avoid being victimized. The FBI is also working to alert law enforcement first responders to this threat so they may respond accordingly.” They added, “The FBI urges anyone who believes they may have been victimized to make a police report. If you believe your e-mail or other smart device credentials were compromised, you should report the incident at http://www.ic3.gov.”
5. One Swatting Incident in West Covina Involved Nelson Posing as a Minor Child Reporting Her Parents were Shooting Guns Inside the Home While Drinking, Reports Say
In one example, on November 8, 2020, Nelson and an accomplice “accessed without authorization Yahoo and Ring accounts belonging to a victim in West Covina,” the release says.
“A hoax telephone call was placed to the West Covina Police Department purporting to originate from the victim’s residence and posing as a minor child reporting her parents drinking and shooting guns inside the residence of the victim’s parents.”
Nelson “allegedly accessed without authorization a Ring doorbell camera, located at the residence of the victim’s parents and linked to the victim’s Ring account, and used it to verbally threaten and taunt West Covina Police officers who responded to the reported incident,” the release says.