The Boy Who Heard Too Much
August 24, 2009 11:08 PM   Subscribe

Matthew Weigman, a fat, blind kid, started phone swatting when he was 15. Three years later, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison. His exploits include trying to initiate phone sex with Lindsey Lohan, sending swat teams to people's homes and gathering confidential information from Verizon and AT&T.

In person, Weigman was a shy and awkward teenager with a shaved head who spent his days holed up in his room, often talking for up to 20 hours a day on free telephone chat lines. On the phone, he became "Lil' Hacker," the most skilled member of a small band of telephone pranksters known as "phreaks."
posted by kylej (61 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Matthew Weigman, a fat, blind kid
Does Matthew's avoirdupois really have that much of a bearing in regards to his story? Rolling Stone must've mentioned "fat" or "tubby" or "overweight" in every other paragraph. Being overweight doesn't automatically mean being lonely, isolated, and rejected by society. The article makes it sound like Matt blamed his anger and penchant for "mischief" on his blindness and his abandonment issues more than his physique.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:21 PM on August 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


who will save us from these chubby terrorists?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!????FATFATFAT
posted by Avenger at 11:30 PM on August 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


Being overweight doesn't automatically mean being lonely, isolated, and rejected by society.

But it helps.
posted by wendell at 11:36 PM on August 24, 2009 [19 favorites]


Does Matthew's avoirdupois really have that much of a bearing in regards to his story?

Yeah you're right. Being overweight never had any ill-sociological/psychological effects on a person (former fat kid here, btw, and heavy sarcasm intended). Sure, Rolling Stone maybe belabored the point, but trying to pass off ignorance of one's facticity (I'm using fancy words because you did) as being somehow un-PC is just as ignorant as the ignorance you decry. Most of all, its not at all an interesting point.

Regardless of what the cause of Matthew's serious issues were, it is absurd to play the blame game on any one psychological issue. I'm also the last to defend the journalistic integrity of Rolling Stone....but...

This was a troubled kid with unfortunate circumstances. There's an interesting discussion here that can be had about the internet, social isolation, and self-worth. I don't think making lay projections on a stranger's psychology is very interesting.

And yeah, as fortunate or unfortunate as you may think it is, being overweight does have automatic ramifications in the sociological environment in which we live, but this was hardly the point of this post.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:39 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actually, he apparently is "slim" now that he's in prison... on the path to redemption????

Allowing someone like that access to any part of the phone system while in prison is a terrible idea. It's a shame his sentence isn't longer.
posted by Spacelegoman at 11:40 PM on August 24, 2009


"(former fat kid here, btw, and heavy sarcasm intended)"

Heavy, duuuuude.
posted by orthogonality at 11:41 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I couldn't care less how fat the kid is or isn't.

The fact that he endangered the lives of anyone he's ever "swatted" is totally deplorable, and should be the topic of discussion, not some editing mistake.

Even if it is Rolling Stone.
posted by Sphinx at 11:43 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


And mefi's great reputation for the quick derail begins...
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:44 PM on August 24, 2009 [6 favorites]


But he sure plays a mean pinball...
posted by queensissy at 11:45 PM on August 24, 2009 [19 favorites]


I, for one, needed the constant reminder. As I read the story, I kept picturing a young Colin Farrell. It was nice to be shaken back into reality every paragraph that this was in fact a porky little fat fuck.
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 11:45 PM on August 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


So clearly the NSA needs to pick him up and give him a real job and a real outlet, right? I mean, this person has a gift and what better way to rock those warrantless wiretaps than with a Daredevil superhearo?
posted by disillusioned at 11:45 PM on August 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't give a damn how much he weighs. Anybody who tries to initiate phone sex with Lindsey Lohan belongs in prison.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:45 PM on August 24, 2009 [8 favorites]


It was nice to be shaken back into reality every paragraph that this was in fact a porky little fat fuck.

Christ, what an asshole.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:50 PM on August 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Was it really that hard to read the sarcasm?
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 11:52 PM on August 24, 2009


Was it really that hard to read the sarcasm?

No, I'm just giving you a hard mefi time. I for one had a good chuckle at your comment .
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:54 PM on August 24, 2009


every system programmed by humans has holes. even in the old days like 1776
posted by MrTenacious at 11:58 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Initiate phone sex with Lindsay Lohan?

God, stopping her is the real challenge.
posted by smoke at 12:00 AM on August 25, 2009 [8 favorites]


"To punish Danielle, who had pissed him off on a chat line, Weigman had phoned 911 and posed as a psycho, rigging his caller ID to make it look like the emergency call was coming from inside Danielle's home."

So not unlike those 'pranksters' we learned about a few weeks ago.

When did tech savvy misfits stop hacking into Pentagon servers and start fucking with real people instead of the Man?!

No carrier among phreaks, I tell you.
posted by Glee at 12:01 AM on August 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


So clearly the NSA needs to pick him up and give him a real job and a real outlet, right? I mean, this person has a gift and what better way to rock those warrantless wiretaps than with a Daredevil superhearo?

This kid is not a phreak, not a hacker. He doesn't have incredible security and technical knowledge. He's not Cap'n Crunch (John Draper); he's not Mitnik; he's not Wozniak. I've met those men. They all explored the phone system because of uncontrollable curiosity. At worst, it was about seeing if they could do it. The allure of the locked door.

This little asshole is the telephonic equivalent of a 4chan /b/tard.

Some sociopathic fuck who believes that his own misfortune gives him the right to send militarized policemen into innocent people's houses. For the lulz of it.

Prison is just the right fucking place for him.

My only disappointment is that cumstains like him provide the drive and justification for progressively more draconian digital security laws.

[NOT CUMSTAIN-IST]
posted by Netzapper at 12:01 AM on August 25, 2009 [15 favorites]


No, I'm just giving you a hard mefi time. I for one had a good chuckle at your comment.

Nice, thus rendering my "Was it really that hard to read the sarcasm?" comment ironic.

And for the record, the last time someone gave me a hard mefi time, I couldn't sit down for three days.
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 12:03 AM on August 25, 2009


"Weigman says Romney told him to shove the phone up his ass, and hung up."

Damn ... watch your language Mitt Romney.
posted by Arbac at 12:13 AM on August 25, 2009


And for the record, the last time someone gave me a hard mefi time, I couldn't sit down for three days.

Christ, what an asshole.

its just too easy
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:22 AM on August 25, 2009


Was it really that hard to read the sarcasm ?
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 12:24 AM on August 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


He might be an overweight blind kid, but on the party lines, he could be whoever he wanted.

Maybe a Viking?

It's going to be interesting when he gets a smuggled phone in his cell. My bet is that he keeps the phone and charger in his ass all the time. He'll practicing flexing his sphincter and releasing controlled jets of gas until he can press the buttons by wiggling his bowels and actually talk out his ass. Of course, he'll have to squat near a power outlet occasionally.
posted by pracowity at 12:40 AM on August 25, 2009


Was it really that hard to read the sarcasm ?

Damn you infinite regress. But alas, Christ, I give you the last laugh which I have appreciated fully...and I thank you for
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:47 AM on August 25, 2009


Get a room you two.
posted by i_cola at 1:00 AM on August 25, 2009 [5 favorites]


Certainly no Joe Engressia.
posted by CG at 1:12 AM on August 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


hacker groupies??
posted by dabitch at 1:59 AM on August 25, 2009


The story of Matthew was previously featured (although then with his surname withheld) with the linked Wired.com article titled: "Teenage Hacker Is Blind, Brash and in the Crosshairs of the FBI".

Guess they got their man.
posted by There's No I In Meme at 2:02 AM on August 25, 2009


And yeah, as fortunate or unfortunate as you may think it is, being overweight does have automatic ramifications in the sociological environment in which we live, but this was hardly the point of this post.
It's important enough to the post/topic that the OP used it as the first adjective in his introduction. If Weigman had been rail-thin I doubt that fact would've been mentioned more than once in the article, even if being constantly taunted and called "Stringbean" was the reason he sought refuge in chat lines.

As far as Weigman's prison stretch goes, I wonder if he'll "learn his lesson." It sounds like phreaking was an addiction for him, and the lure of new technology once he gets out might be too tempting. John Draper went back to his old ways after his first prison sentence and got popped at least two more times.
posted by Oriole Adams at 2:21 AM on August 25, 2009


I kept reading it as "Weightman"...
posted by From Bklyn at 2:43 AM on August 25, 2009


Prison is just the right fucking place for him.

Yeah that'll show him. Leech away the last shreds of his humanity and dignity by throwing him into an overcrowded, punitive, rat hole to be sexually assaulted at the hands of inmates and guards alike. If he survives the multitude of riots that are sure to overwhelm the American prison system as these deplorable, inhumane and unconstitutional conditions persist, then maybe he can land a job at KFC as a swing manager, if he lies on his application. That'll show him. No way will he ever return to crime again after that.
posted by IvoShandor at 3:43 AM on August 25, 2009 [8 favorites]


The supervillain angle the article took was interesting. I feel like in a couple years, the Joker is going to spring him out of prison and use his talents for mega worldwide mayhem.

I would love to hear a radio interview with this guy just to hear what all the voices he makes sound like. Quite frankly, other than the whole mimic thing, he seems like those "bad nerds" that you meet in high school. Interesting article, thanks for posting. I learned some new words.
posted by bluefly at 4:03 AM on August 25, 2009


Does Matthew's avoirdupois really have that much of a bearing in regards to his story?

I know, hey? And imagine how much teasing he would have endured if he used the word avoirdupois on the playground.
posted by rokusan at 4:08 AM on August 25, 2009


the last time someone gave me a hard mefi time, I couldn't sit down for three days.
--
posted by Christ, what an asshole

That's what she said.
posted by rokusan at 4:10 AM on August 25, 2009


The Smoking Gun: The second man called the hotel employee a "dumb bitch" for drinking the guest's bacteria-filled waste. The disgusting episode, of course, received plaudits from the Pranknet chat room faithful, one of whom exclaimed, "That bitch drank piss!"

Wikipedia: Except in cases of kidney or urinary tract infection (UTI), urine is virtually sterile


Emotional editorialising fail.
posted by Dysk at 4:16 AM on August 25, 2009


...or me Epic Fail. That was off an old link, not the one being discussed.

*facepalm*
posted by Dysk at 4:21 AM on August 25, 2009


Whoa. What an incredible story and scary dude. The SWAT teams must love this guy. Not. It seems strange that one can commercically buy a Spoof Card. A swatter conspiracy.

Seconding Netzapper's ire. Surprising to learn about phreaking and swatting. yikes. Went on a surf ramble. Just learned a little of the fascinating history of Joybubbles, Josef Carl Engressia, Jr., another blind, abused kid, phreaker, whose hacking started at age 5.

In the 60's I heard about a kid here in NYC, who was said to have invented or used a "black box", which I just learned was actually the blue box, invented by Wozniak. When I was a kid my pathetically corny prank, a small handful of times, really, was to call random people in the white pages and say, "This is a survey, is your refrigerator running?" When the answer was yes, to yell into the receiver, "Well you better go catch it!" And hang up, squealing with giggles, high on dumb mischief.

This line from the article intrigued me: Despite the rise of online video streaming, there are still scores of telephone party lines scattered across the country, an odd and forgotten throwback to a pre-digital world. huh. Could that be true? Sure enough.

If he heard a supervisor's voice once, he could imitate it with eerie precision when calling one of the man's underlings.

Whoa. Surreal, something out of a sci-fi flick or David Attenborough.

The abuse Matt received at home in his early years caused him to become a sociopath, a serial bully, and his physical limitation, his blindness, became part of the foundation of his ability to hack phones. And then other, older criminal phone hackers mentored him into their darknet (is that the correct use of the term?). His grandiose sense of identity is melded with his role as sadist. "I was actually somebody on the phone, somebody important." Sociopaths cycle through the Karpman drama triangle, perceiving themselves as the victim.

It'll be interesting if the FBI can have a utilitarian relationship with this man, now 18, the way they did with Frank Abagnale.
posted by nickyskye at 6:01 AM on August 25, 2009 [5 favorites]


Wow, this thread sure became a mess early. Anyway, reading the article was surprising; for one thing, the kid doesn't come across as some sort of helpless overweight geek at all:

At age four, Matt surprised his mother by making out flashing bulbs on the Christmas tree. After that, he could perceive faint lights — and he exploited the ability for all it was worth. He cooked for himself by feeling his way around the kitchen — eggs here, frying pan there, toaster over there — and refused to stop, even after he burned himself. He shocked his brother by climbing on a bicycle and tearing down the road, using the blurry shadows for guidance. He taught himself to skateboard, too.

Like to see any folks here try that.
posted by mediareport at 6:02 AM on August 25, 2009


hacker groupies?

Black-hat hacking and phreaking is a very social thing - trading know-how and exploits is essential to success, as is having someone to show off to who understands and appreciates what you just did, there.

The combination of confidence, power and just a little evil really does it for some women.

The guy in the article takes it way too far, tho... he's portrayed sympathetically, but the dude is bad, bad news. He knows what he's doing is tremendously evil and sadistic, and he feels some remorse - but mostly he feels the power rush. He knew he was going to be busted, and he kept it up anyway. Behind bars is exactly where he needs to be.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:33 AM on August 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


If she didn't want to do it, he added generously, he would gladly accept it from her daughter.

Classy.
posted by gene_machine at 6:59 AM on August 25, 2009


the last time someone gave me a hard mefi time, I couldn't sit down for three days.

damn that Lindsay Lohan !
posted by mannequito at 7:47 AM on August 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


and he feels some remorse

Not sure that authentic remorse is indicated in the article. Sociopaths might be considered "remorse challenged" and at the darker end of the continuum, to not be capable of remorse. They may feel a sort of partial guilt, which is feeling guilty for doing a wrong, know what they are doing is wrong, but not capable of the appropriate, empathic response to stop the behavior; while knowing the wrong, feeling partial guilt, they continue to cause others suffering. Their feeling any guilt may cause the opposite of authentic remorse, it may trigger even more sadism.

Interesting articles: The Partial Psychopath and : re continuous partial empathy.

The combination of confidence, power and just a little evil really does it for some women.

Attracted sexually to evil. There's a name for that, passive and aggressive hybristophilia.
posted by nickyskye at 7:51 AM on August 25, 2009


... superhearo
I see what you did there.
posted by lowlife at 8:07 AM on August 25, 2009


OP here:

Sorry if I offended anyone by using "fat" as the first adjective in the post. I was just trying to paint a picture of who Matthew Weigman was, but I probably could and should have used lonely or something else to the same affect.
posted by kylej at 8:14 AM on August 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


or something else

You did ok, it's a symptom of having to explain everything to lazy readers up front in the title to get their attention. A sign of the times, if you will.
posted by jsavimbi at 8:21 AM on August 25, 2009


Certainly no Joe Engressia.

Certainly no Captain Crunch. "Out of the Inner Circle" was one of my fave books as a teenager. I just never cut it as a phreaker though.
posted by GuyZero at 8:38 AM on August 25, 2009


Note that he gathered confidential information from AT&T and Verizon, not for them. This is exactly why allowing telecoms to spy on us is not only unconstitutional but simply ripe for abuse.
posted by tommasz at 9:16 AM on August 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


Some interesting things I found over at Party Line Adventures :
Matthew Weigman's booking report, w/ photo.

Assorted docs from the case, including Matt Weigman's plea agreement.

... oh, and the theme song when/if they make a movie about all this.
posted by markkraft at 9:40 AM on August 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Adding songs for the movie: The Telephone Song.
Telephone Line - Electric Light Orchestra
Pennsylvania 6 - 5000 - Glenn Miller Orchestra
Call Me - Blondie
Back Of My Hand (I've Got Your Number) - Jags
Rikki Don't Lose That Number - Steely Dan
Operator - Midnight Star
Baby Don't Forget My Number - Milli Vanilli
777-9311 - The Time
Obscene Phone Caller - Rockwell
Memphis - Chuck Berry & Johnny Rivers
Jenny 867-5309 by Tommy Tutone
Beechwood 45789
Operator by the Manhattan Transfer
Ricki Don't Lose That Number . . . .
Long Distance call Muddy Waters
Operator Gladys Knight
634-5789 Wilson Pickett
Beechwood 4-5789 The Marvelettes
Telephone Man Meri Wilson
As Soon As I Hang Up The Phone Conway & Loretta
Bigelow 6-200 Brenda Lee
Operator Jim Croce
Don't Hang Up Orlons
Answer Your Phone Marco & The Dukes
Phone Me Babe Bill Woods
posted by nickyskye at 9:58 AM on August 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is our world now. The world of the electron and the switch; the beauty of the baud. We exist without nationality, skin color, or religious bias. You wage wars, murder, cheat, lie to us and try to make us believe it's for our own good, yet we're the criminals. Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of curiosity. I am a hacker, and this is my manifesto.... now where's Lindsey Lohan's phone number.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:59 AM on August 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


The combination of confidence, power and just a little evil really does it for some women.

True that.
posted by scalefree at 10:09 AM on August 25, 2009


Mmmm... Anyone want AIDS?!

Apparently, a lot of the SWAT calls in question are archived over at AIDS, which is a massive phone-based database thingie... it will even connect you to a lot of the party line numbers in question.
posted by markkraft at 10:15 AM on August 25, 2009


Telephone keypad songs.
posted by nickyskye at 10:19 AM on August 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


Telephone keypad songs.

There was a time when my phone rang 20 or 30 times a day, and the message was a very elaborate version of Mary Had A Little Lamb, with all kinds of trills and arpeggios. I would have changed my number, but it was printed on fancy business cards and stationary.

A police investigation ensued, the culprit turned out to be some cubicle dweller who had programmed the song into his dial-up modem, and had to demonstrate his masterpiece to everyone who came near. Just happened to start out with my phone number.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:30 AM on August 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


Now, I would feel sorry for the people that were the victims, but most of the time they brought the harassment to themselves. Most of the people that became PLA victims would start off by mistreating one of the PLA members, not knowing what they were capable of. The PLA was pretty much created for the purpose of getting back at these people. Prank calling is a way of getting back at the people that put you down for no reason. In the PLA, the outcasts united and were able to choose their victims from the wide variety of people that insisted on trying to make their lives hell for their own amusement. Because of the PLA, the bullies would get bullied for once.
posted by iamck at 10:53 AM on August 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't give a damn how much he weighs. Anybody who tries to initiate phone sex with Lindsey Lohan belongs in prison.

Let's not be too harsh. After all, he is blind.
posted by pardonyou? at 10:53 AM on August 25, 2009


I hope he gets out quick and gets a good job, or failing that works for the next jerky boys. ;)
posted by jeffburdges at 11:17 AM on August 25, 2009


I had no idea of the existence of party lines before reading this article - Wikipedia has an article about party lines, but in the context of mostly obsolete shared service phone lines. I'd be interested in reading more about these communities - I'd figured that sort of thing died out in the early 90's.
posted by pravit at 11:30 AM on August 25, 2009


Fun is fun, but Lindsay Lohan is a very young, very troubled woman, and I just don't feel comfortable picking on that freckly little nympho.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:44 AM on August 25, 2009


...party lines... I'd figured that sort of thing died out in the early 90's.

It did die out. But now they're running the ads on TV again here in NY. Makes you wonder who the newly re-emergent demographic is.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:42 AM on August 27, 2009


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