Great Barrington man held in fake emergency calls case
BANTAM, Conn. - He'd show up at fire scenes in Great Barrington, Mass., scanner in tow, and equipped his black Dodge pickup with sirens and a megaphone piped into a speaker.
Adam Perrelli, the 35-year-old Massachusetts man accused of making fake emergency radio calls on the Litchfield County Dispatch system, wanted to be a firefighter so badly he allegedly turned vigilante, gloating about his alleged crimes making national news, according to the arrest warrant affidavit filed by state police.
Perrelli, a Great Barrington resident who is originally from the New Haven area and has other ties to Connecticut, was arrested Friday in Pittsfield, Mass. He was extradited to Connecticut to face several charges, including first-degree reporting a false incident, first-degree reckless endangerment and third-degree computer crime, after the unauthorized broadcasts interfered with and interrupted calls for service for both ambulance and fire departments during the period from Dec. 25, 2013, to Jan. 6, 2014.
The calls dispatched ambulances to fake calls and canceled firefighters en route to actual emergencies.
Perrelli appeared in front of a Judge Richard Marano at Superior Court in Bantam on Monday wearing a plain-gray sweatshirt and crew neck with blue sweatpants. Perrelli, who was shackled, was held on $125,000 bail. A bail commissioner pointed to Perrelli's extensive record, which dates back to 1997 and includes convictions of sexual assault, burglary and larceny, court records show.
His public defender asked that bail be set at $25,000 because Perrelli doesn't have the "means" to post bail. If he makes bail, he will be under electronic monitoring.
Litchfield County Dispatch, which has radio towers spread across the northwest corner of the state and is 32 miles from Great Barrington, Mass., reported the fake calls to state police and the investigation was handled by detectives from the Western District Major Crime Squad.
Copies of the radio transmissions were seized by detectives and later distributed to the media, which assisted in the investigation by releasing the audio recordings of four of the transmissions.
Perrelli met with authorities on March 6 and admitted his voice was the one on the calls, according to the affidavit, written by Trooper Holly Wrightson, of the Western District Major Crime Squad.
Perrelli told police he was “screwing around” on the radio. He said he had been asked to test out portable radios by a former roommate, whom Perrelli accused of transmitting three phony calls. The roommate says he was out of the state at the time of the incident and provided the Register Citizen receipts that he claims prove he was at a Connecticut casino at the time the calls were made.
Perrelli claims he was drunk when he transmitted, using the Sharon and Watertown aliases, at the pair's former address of 89 Christian Hill Road in Great Barrington.
State police have said they're continuing the investigation and additional arrests are possible, but it's unclear if the roommate, who flaked on a meeting with investigators after agreeing to meet with them at a friend's house, will face charges in connection with the fake calls.
A radio possibly used to make the dispatches was found in the trash rubbish after one of Perrelli's acquaintances told authorities she believed she saw him dispose of something in a dumpster behind a Great Barrington club on Feb. 28, the warrant said.
According to the warrant, detectives received more than 40 tips and emails from the public. Four people, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, provided Perrelli's name to authorities. One informant told police Perrelli confessed to making the calls; another said Perrelli abused alcohol and drugs, such as crack cocaine. Perrelli had told one of the informants he was going to bury his radio equipment to avoid being tracked.
Another informant said Perrelli was "laughing and gloating" about making the fake calls and making national news.
Perrelli had inquired about joining the Great Barrington Fire Department and applied to become a volunteer firefighter in June 2013, police said, but he didn't pass a background check.
Perrelli taped firefighters responding to calls and put them on Facebook and YouTube. Perrelli would also show up at scenes, Fire Chief Charles Burger said. Burger asked Perrelli to remove the videos. Burger told police Perrelli had equipped his truck with emergency lights and radio equipment.
Perrelli's ex-girlfriend told police he often listened to fire and police scanners and it was his "dream" to become a firefighter. She told police she recognized his voice as the one on the transmissions after he used the phrase "be advised" -- something he often invoked. Perrelli was known to use firefighter lingo, such as "roger and "be advised."
He often carried radio, microphones and scanners with him and his black Dodge pickup truck was equipped with emergency lights and a public announcement system, which enabled him to speak over a microphone connected to a speaker.
Police said Perrelli used a lost or stolen portable radio or programmable electronic device to send out fictitious calls for service and other emergencies.
Perrelli is accused of making a trio of transmissions on Dec. 25, under the aliases "Sharon Car 1," "Goshen Car 2" and "Litchfield Car 2." Perrelli reported a person walking in to the Sharon Fire Department in need of medical care and requested an ambulance, which was dispatched by Sharon. When paramedics arrived on scene, there was no one there.
Transmitting under the name "Warren Car 2," Perrelli allegedly told all units, called to chimney fire in Morris, to "stand down." Perrelli, transmitting as "Sharon Car 2," contacted an LCD dispatcher, who responded. After that, the calls ceased until Jan. 6.
This time using the name "Watertown Car 1," Perrelli allegedly requested an ambulance for a walk-in. A dispatcher asked for the address, and Perrelli told the dispatcher smoke was billowing from the roof at 235 Main St., in Watertown. LCD doesn't service Watertown, so the dispatcher called the town's dispatch to confirm the structure wasn't ablaze.
Experts told police Perrelli's Baofeng transmitter was capable of receiving and transmitting LCD's frequency.
Police said Perrelli used the LCD radio frequency to role play as a fire official. In one transmission, Perrelli, allegedly playing the role of a dispatcher and fire official, had a conversation with himself, using New York City-based addresses.
William Trisler, director of certification for the Connecticut Fire Academy, told police Perrelli failed a test in 1999 and wasn't a certified firefighter.
He was briefly employed at the Clinton Fire Department in 1999, but he didn't make it through his sixth-month probation period and was let go after a pair of incidents, one in which he got in a fight with another firefighter.
Members of the Massachusetts state police, along with Connecticut state police Western District Major Crime Squad, executed a search and seizure warrant on Perrelli's 179 Main St. apartment in Great Barrington.
According to the affidavit, the search turned up two laptops, a Uniden scanner, a lapel microphone, loud speakers for a siren or PA system, a strobe light and radio and scanner antennas, and two pages of handwritten notes of radio frequencies, including those for Litchfield County Dispatch.
According to the affidavit, detectives sifted through trash from a dump truck and found the packaging for a Baofeng radio, which was inside.
In a statement Litchfield County Dispatch said the arrest will hopefully put an end to the malicious calls.
"The person or persons who did this threatened the safety of every fire and EMS responder in Litchfield County," the statement read. "The recent fire in Torrington and the deaths of 2 firemen in Boston show the importance of a secure radio communication system. LCD takes this responsibility very seriously and the Connecticut State Police were notified as soon as the transmissions occurred each and every time."
Perrelli, who was also charged with interfering with an officer and tampering with evidence, is due back in court April 30.
Tom Cleary contributed to this report.
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