DELMAR – Bethlehem police arrested two men for making emergency calls claiming there was a working structure fire at a Delmar home to harass people living at the residence.
On Sunday, March 20, the Bethlehem Police Department Telecommunications Center received a call to its non-emergency number by a male caller reporting a fully involved and active fire at his residence. The caller then abruptly hung up.
The center dispatched fire departments and police to the residence. Upon arrival, Sgt Michael Whiteley and Slingerlands Fire Department Assistant Chief Jason Tice found no signs of a fire or anyone at the residence. The two contacted a neighbor and secured the cell phone number of the homeowner and contacted him. He said he was out to dinner with his family and only the family dog was in the home.
With permission from the homeowner, Tice entered and searched the home for signs of fire, then canceled the other responding departments.
Bethlehem detectives identified the general location of the original call in the City of Albany by using technology that identifies an IP address of the source call. They used an emergency disclosure request to determine the address of where the call originated.
“It is a long investigative process that requires many warrants to determine exactly where the call came from,” Bethlehem police Cmdr.James Rexford said.
Detectives contacted the resident at the Albany location and identified two persons of interest.
Officers interviewed one of those suspects, Dylan Lafave, of Greenville, at his residence on March 23. According to reports, Lafave denied making the phone call, but stated he was with Ryan Albright, 24, of Altamont, and another person at the Albany address when the call was made.
After investigating further, Police filed an arrest warrant for Lefave and Albright.
Both turned themselves in at the Bethlehem police station.
Lafave stands charged with falsely reporting a fire, explosion or hazard, a felony, and criminal impersonation by the internet, a misdemeanor.
Albright was charged with conspiracy, a misdemeanor.
Both were arraigned by Town Justice Andrew Kirby and released. Albright is scheduled back in court on April 6 and Lefave is scheduled to appear on May 17.
This is not the only recent case of what is known as “SWATTing” in Bethlehem. The term is used to describe when someone calls to report a fraudulent incident that prompts an emergency response to a location to cause distress to those at that location.
“This is the second call like this in the past month,” Rexford said. “But this is the first one that has resulted in an arrest. The other one is still under investigation.”
The other incident took place at a Selkirk residence in March where a caller reported a person was in danger and needed help. Police responded and found the residents of the home in no distress, Rexford said.