Man gets prison time for fake 911 calls about California lawmaker

July 13, 2016
In The News

The man who put Rep. Ted Lieu through what the congressman called “one of the most traumatic half hours of my life” by phoning in a fake tip to police that the then-state senator had shot his wife has been sentenced to two years in prison.

Mir Islam, 22, of New York was sentenced Monday. He pleaded guilty on July 6, 2015, in U.S. District Court in Washington to three federal charges related to “swatting” (calling in a fake emergency to police) and “doxing” (posting identifying information online) dozens of victims, including Lieu. He also pleaded guilty to making a false bomb threat against a university in Arizona and online harassment and cyberstalking, the Justice Department said.

In 2013, Lieu was driving home when a Torrance police officer called his cellphone and asked whether Lieu had harmed his wife. When Lieu answered no, the officer hung up without explaining, the congressman recalled in an interview.

"A few seconds later I think, well, what if someone else shot my wife?" Lieu said.

He frantically called the officer and his wife repeatedly without a response. "That half hour was probably one of the most traumatic half hours of my life."

His wife, Betty, wasn’t answering her phone because armed police had arrived at their home and had ordered her to put her hands behind her head as they searched the house for intruders.

"It was quite traumatic for her," he said.

Lieu said police and fire vehicles blocked the street when he arrived home, and officers were still combing the neighborhood.

"I got to see firsthand the enormous waste of resources. If some other emergency was happening they would have been short-handed, and every time one of these calls happens it costs the city money," he said.

Several celebrities, including Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus and Simon Cowell, have been targets of similar swatting calls, and Lieu’s Senate district included the celebrity-studded areas of Beverly Hills, Bel-Air and Pacific Palisades.

Islam told the FBI that Lieu was targeted because he was pushing to increase penalties for making "swatting" calls.

"It was highly disturbing that this person targeted me because of legislation I chose to offer. I'm very pleased the FBI has put a stop to that with this person and hopefully others won't repeat what he did," Lieu said.