A hacker who made dozens of phony bombing and shooting threats to schools in the United States and the United Kingdom and made a false hijacking report about a California-bound jetliner was sentenced on Monday (US time) to federal prison.
Timothy Dalton Vaughn, 22, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was sentenced by a federal judge in California to nearly eight years in prison for conspiracy, hacking and possession of hundreds of child pornography photos and videos.
He pleaded guilty to federal charges last fall after his arrest in February 2019.
Vaughn was a member of the "Apophis Squad," which prosecutors described as a worldwide hacker collective that sent threatening phone calls and email reports of violent school attacks.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
Vaughn and others sent emails to at least 86 school districts that threatened attacks, including "the imminent detonation of a bomb made with ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, rocket-propelled grenade heads placed under school buses, and the placement of land mines on sports fields," according to a statement from the US attorney's office for the Central District of California.
Vaughn and others also once reported that four men armed with guns and explosives had hijacked a London-to-San Francisco airliner, prosecutors said.
Authorities also said that in 2018, Vaughn disabled the website of a Long Beach company with a denial-of-service attack after the firm refused to pay him to prevent such attacks.
Vaughn was arrested by the FBI in February 2019, and he and a British man, George Duke-Cohan, then 19, were charged in the United States.
Duke-Cohan was already serving a three-year sentence in the UK related to the hoax threats, according to NBC News.
He is the one who called in the fake hijacking to San Francisco police, but Vaughn was accused of assisting in the bogus claim, according to an indictment. When the passenger plane landed at San Francisco it was quarantined for hours for security checks.
Vaughn, who was 19 and 20 at the time of the crimes and suffers from autism spectrum disorder, "had lost himself inside of his computer," his federal public defender wrote in a court filing prior to sentencing. Vaughn has said his arrest was for the best and that he "was in the rabbit hole, and ... near the bottom," according to the public defender's filing.