Venezuelan man pleads guilty of threatening Newtown residents days after school shooting

A Venezuelan man pleaded guilty Thursday to making threatening phone calls to Newtown residents in the days following the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, a crime that Connecticut's top federal prosecutor said "compounded the collective suffering" of the town.

The defendant, Wilfrido Cardenas Hoffman, 31, of El Hatillo, Venezuela, has been detained since he was arrested in June at Miami International Airport while traveling to Mexico from Venezuela. He told the judge at the hearing that he has been taking anti-psychotic medication since September.

After watching news coverage of the massacre at home in Venezuela, prosecutors said, Cardenas looked up Newtown phone numbers on the Internet and attempted more than 90 calls. A prosecutor, Krishna Patel, said victims were prepared to testify that they felt they were in real danger and that Newtown police and the FBI were dispatched to their homes.

At a sentencing hearing scheduled for Feb. 12, Cardenas will ask for a sentence of time served.

Although the sentencing guidelines call for a range of 33 to 41 months in prison, prosecutors said that in light of the defendant's psychiatric diagnoses and a plan for him to receive treatment in Venezuela, they will not take a position on what his sentence should be.

On Dec. 14, 2012, Adam Lanza fatally shot his mother and gunned down 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School before killing himself.

Authorities said that in a few calls, Cardenas claimed to be the shooter and threatened to kill the person he called.

"This is Adam Lanza. I'm gonna (expletive) kill you. You're dead. You're dead. You hear me? You're dead," the caller said, according to authorities.

Deirdre Daly, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, said the conduct of Cardenas was reprehensible.

"These threatening calls, just two days after the tragedy, compounded the collective suffering of all of the citizens of Newtown and needlessly stressed law enforcement resources at a critical time," she said.

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