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Serial crank caller ties up 911 lines in San Francisco area, sends police on wild goose chases

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

'Nomar' used a donated phone with no service carrier to make nearly 2,000 fake emergency calls.

VALLEJO, Calif. -- A serial crank caller using a donated cell phone has plagued 911 with nearly 2,000 fake emergency calls over the past six months, tying up dispatchers and sending police and firefighters on wild goose chases, authorities said.

A man identifying himself as Nomar has reported himself the victim of everything from a drug overdose and a possible heart attack to robbery and attempted suicide. Officials said they didn't know why nearly all the false emergencies he calls in purportedly take place in Vallejo, a city of about 100,000 along the waters north of San Francisco Bay.

"He can be quite convincing and he definitely knows the geography of Vallejo," said Vallejo police spokesman Bill Powell. "If we can't determine it's a false call, we'll send people out."

He started making the calls in March, according to the California Highway Patrol, which handles most of the wireless 911 calls for the San Francisco Bay area.

Investigators analyzed the cell phone signal to track the caller to an area in San Francisco but have not been able to obtain a more precise location. The CHP determined the phone originated with a company in Oklahoma that donated old employee cell phones to an organization that distributes them to the homeless.

The phone has no service carrier, which has prevented investigators from discovering any further personal information about the caller. The man has been able to continue making the calls because 911 calls are free even from cell phones without paid accounts, authorities said.

Each crank call could result in a single misdemeanor count of a false emergency report to a public agency, and investigators were documenting all the calls in hopes of eventually prosecuting the man, Powell said.

"People like him prevent real emergencies from getting through quickly," CHP spokeswoman Mary Pat Marshall said.

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