A North Carolina teenager has agreed to plead guilty to a federal conspiracy charge for phoning in hoax bomb threats to colleges, middle schools and FBI offices around the country for the amusement of a live internet audience.
Ashton Lundeby, 17, and his associates staged bomb hoaxes from mid-2008 until Lundeby's arrest in March of last year, according to a plea agreement (.pdf) filed Wednesday. Victims included Purdue University, the University of North Carolina, Clemson University, Florida State University, Boston College, Hamden High School, West Hempfield Middle School, and FBI offices in Colorado and Louisiana.
"He agreed to plead guilty," says prosecutor Kenneth Hays. "There is a plea hearing scheduled for Wednesday of next week."
As we reported last year, Lundeby was known online as "Tyrone," a celebrity in a prank-calling community that grew in 2008 out of the trouble-making "/b/" board on 4chan. Using the VOIP conferencing software Ventrilo, as many as 300 listeners would gather on a server run by Lundeby to listen to him and other amateur voice actors make often-crude and racist phone calls.
"All will be cleansed." Listen to the March 4, 2009 bomb threats
The pranks became more serious when "Tyrone" began accepting PayPal donations from students eager to miss a day of class. In exchange for a little money, he would phone in a bomb threat that would shutter the donor's school for a day.
"There are four bombs located in each wing of your school, Wing A, Wing B, Wing C and Wing D, throughout various lockers, bathrooms and receptacles throughout the building," went one such call to Hamden High School in Connecticut, a recording of which was obtained by Threat Level last year.
"There's 12 on each floor of the building. I will not tell you where they are located, but I will tell you they are very deadly, very explosive, and very big. They will explode at exactly 11 am when testing is done. I will destroy the entire campus, the entire school, and kill every student within as soon as testing is over. I hope you have a good morning and good night. All will be cleansed."
Lundeby's attorney did not return a phone call on the case.
Police began closing in on Tyrone after they traced a February 15, 2009 bomb threat against Purdue University to Lundeby's Oxford, North Carolina home. The next month, they served his mother with a search warrant and arrested then 16-year-old Lundeby. He was later charged as an adult in U.S. District Court in South Bend, Indiana - an unusual move against a juvenile in federal court - and has been held without bail.
Under the terms of the plea deal, prosecutors will drop two related charges in the indictment, and recommend a reduced sentence in exchange for Lundeby's cooperation against other participants in the calls.