When a North Carolina woman accused the federal government last week of abusing the Patriot Act to imprison her teenage son for allegedly making bomb threats, the mother's allegation caused quite an uproar, including calls to free 16-year-old Ashton Lundeby.
But a new report by Wired News suggests that, not only was the teenager an online superstar in rogue tech communities for his prank phone calls, but his mother may have known all along that the boy was conspiring with others to make bomb threats.
Lundeby, known online as "Tyrone," allegedly had progressed into selling his services as a threatmaker, charging schoolchildren from across the country $5 apiece to place threatening, Internet-based phone calls that would cause administrators to shut down their schools, Wired News reports.
"I heard the prank phone calls he made," his mother, Annette Lundeby, said in the Wired report. "They were really funny prank calls."
On top of that, the U.S. Attorney's office handling the case says her story about abuse of the Patriot Act was false.
On March 5, FBI agents took Ashton Lundeby into custody at his Oxford, N.C., home and placed him in a federal juvenile facility in Indiana, where he remains on charges he made bomb threats against Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., and other schools.
Last week the boy's mother, Annette Lundeby, went on local TV and called her son's arrest a violation of the Constitution. She said Ashton, who'd been home-schooled and lived in a house full of American flags, was innocent, and that others had "hacked her son's IP address."
Bloggers on both the left and right of the political spectrum had come to the boy's defense, calling him a victim of government oppression, prompting the U.S. Attorney's office to issue a statement Thursday refuting the mother's claim.
Ashton Lundeby was charged under a long-standing law against making threats, and "this charge is unrelated to the Patriot Act," the statement says.
Wired News reports that Ashton was famous in online chat rooms as "Tyrone," a prank caller who'd patch hundreds of like-minded jokers into Internet-based conference calls where they could listen to him harass employees at Wal-Mart and other stores.
Videos of him doing so, often with profane and offensive language, are on YouTube.
"Tyrone" allegedly moved on to bigger things, according to Wired News, which says he began calling in bomb threats and pretty soon was being paid for them via a PayPal account.
Annette Lundeby admitted to Wired News that she knew Ashton had been making "really funny" prank calls, and that he'd made bomb threats, and that he'd received money for some of the calls — but she said it was all just a joke.
An Australian college student who told Wired News that he tipped off the FBI about Ashton said Annette Lundeby knew exactly what her son was doing.
"His mother knew that he was making calls, because she'd come on the microphone when he was talking and tell him not to do any bomb threats because the house was going to get raided," the student told Wired News.
A phone message left by FOXNews.com at the Lundeby home was not immediately returned.