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Athol man gets 2½ years for phony SWAT calls

An Athol man received a 30-month prison sentence Wednesday for placing phony emergency calls that prompted heavy police responses in various US cities and, in one case, forced the evacuation of a hotel in California.

Nathan Hanshaw, 22, was sentenced in federal court in Worcester. He pleaded guilty in August to charges of making interstate threats to use explosives and firearms.

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Hanshaw made prank calls from his home to emergency dispatchers across the United States and Canada, including Ventura, Calif., Waverly, N.Y., and Denver, according to prosecutors. He usually claimed he was a federal fugitive holding hostages at an address and was armed with weapons, explosives, and nerve agents, authorities said.

“He demanded a helicopter ride to Mexico and $50,000 in cash,” prosecutors wrote in a legal filing. “He threatened to detonate his bombs and kill his hostages if his demands were not met. He also threatened to kill any law enforcement personnel who arrived at the location.”

Prosecutors said Hanshaw worked with other people on the hoaxes, and his lawyer, Peter L. Ettenberg, suggested Tuesday that his confederates may have exploited him.

“I think the sentence took into consideration the fact that Nathan is really very immature and to some extent was taken advantage of by others due to his computer expertise,” Ettenberg wrote in an e-mail. “I sincerely believe that Nathan did not fully understand the consequences of his conduct.”

Ettenberg added, “I’m not able to give a comprehensive or even a coherent answer why he engaged in this conduct, except to repeat what I said above.”

In January, more than 40 local and federal officers rushed to a location in Ventura that Hanshaw targeted with a bogus call, authorities said, prompting a hotel evacuation and the closure of nearby streets for several hours.

“His ‘swatting’ activities created a serious risk of physical harm to innocent victims and caused extensive disruptions to important public services,” US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz’s office said in a statement.

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.
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