A Hayward, CA man with a long history of making threatening phone calls to women police officers across two continents was arrested yesterday on a charge that he made a series of calls to Tufts University officers last year that sparked an hours-long room-by-room search of several dormitories, by both officers and dogs, for a supposed woman being held hostage by an ex-special services specialist with a taser.
Sammy Sultan, 48, has been making similar calls to law-enforcement agencies across the US, Canada and Europe for years, according to court records related to his arrest for such calls in 2015 and 2016, which led to a two-year federal prison sentence after he pleaded guilty and was sentenced in 2018. He was formally charged yesterday with one count of making threatening communications in interstate commerce.
According to an affidavit by an FBI agent on the case - who immediately recognized his voice on recordings of the Tufts calls because he was involved in the 2015 investigation - Sultan made eight calls to Tufts Police between 6:38 a.m. and 8:35 a.m. on May 28, 2021:
In certain of the calls to TUPD, SULTAN claimed that he had snuck into an unidentified female's dorm room somewhere on the Tufts University campus. He claimed to be a former member of the military "special forces" who had taken "pills," "escaped from a hospital," and was hiding beneath a bed. He further stated that he possessed an "X26 Taser Gun" and several "pistols." On several occasions during the calls, he stated that he intended to use the taser if the unidentified female whose dorm room he occupied returned to the room and discovered him hiding beneath the bed. ...
7:03 a.m.: SULTAN said, "I'm going to go tase somebody now" and "If the lady comes back into the room, and tries to look under the bed, I have to tase her." During the call, the sound of what appeared to be a taser being activated, and a handgun being racked or cycled, could again be heard in the background. Contemporaneously with these sounds being made, SULTAN claimed that the first sound was an X26 taser, and also said he possessed pistols. ...
He also engaged in an extensive discussion with one female officer with whom he spoke about the smell of slippers and shining her shoes, which is similar to other calls SULTAN has made with which I am familiar.
Sultan also mentioned several specific dorms on campus, which led police to begin emergency procedures:
Based upon the calls' nature and the threats of violence, TUPD personnel initiated an immediate effort to trace the incoming calls in order to identify the caller and determine his precise location. Contemporaneous with those efforts, officers from the TUPD, assisted by local police officers, carried out an hours-long, room-by-room search of numerous buildings located on Tufts University's Medford Campus, several of which SULTAN mentioned by name during his calls. The search was aided by the use of police K-9 officers. According to TUPD Officer 3, after she sent out a notice to the campus community regarding police activity in the area, she received panicked phone calls from various people all over campus inquiring about the incident and requesting further direction.
In fact, the affidavit continues, Sultan was at home in Hayward the whole time - specifically, in the garage of his elderly father's house, which had been outfitted as a room for him. On Oct. 27, FBI agents with a search warrant raided the garage, where they found a taser, a stun gun, and two laptops, one of which showed Internet searches for information about female police officers across the country, the other of which had pictures of various female police officers. That laptop also had a search history showing searches for "sounds of puppies crying" - in calls to other law-enforcement agencies, the affidavit alleges, Sultan had claimed to have puppies that he was planning on killing. Also found: A phone on which he allegedly made threatening calls to police departments in Arkansas.
Before his sentencing for the 2015-2016 calls, his lawyer described him:
Sammy Sultan, chronically depressed and in the depths an untreated 20-year addiction to methamphetamine, made numerous and repeated prank and harassing calls to law enforcement. During the time of the offense conduct, Mr. Sultan was living with his elderly parents and his sister, and he spent most of his days caring for his gravely ill mother.
Mr. Sultan's anxiety and depression are interrelated and find roots in his background and history. Mr. Sultan had a "broken relationship" with his father and did not receive the type of care and guidance from him that he needed as a young man. His interactions with his father were "centered [on] punishment (often corporal punishment)." His father was traditional in his beliefs, and he treated Mr. Sultan "harshly" as a child. He was also absent from his son's life. Mr. Sultan's father "rarely interacted with the family when he returned home from work" and was emotionally abusive to his wife and children. Id. Sultan's relationship with his father remains in disrepair, and yet upon his release from custody, Mr. Sultan will need to help his sister care for his father. During the presentence interview, Mr. Sultan was insightful and able to recognize that his father's own "troubled" upbringing had "much to do with their inability to emotionally connect."
Because of his father's absence when he was a child, Mr. Sultan became extremely close with his mother. When she suffered a back injury and was diagnosed with dementia three years ago, it fell upon Mr. Sultan to provide daily care and comfort to his mother, and to his aging father. Mr. Sultan was tasked with feeding his mother, bathing her, dressing her, turning her in bed, getting her to sit up and scheduling and attending medical appointments with her. In addition, Mr. Sultan was specially trained so that he could administer her much needed in-home medical treatments.
After he "lost" his mother to dementia, Mr. Sultan's depression and anxiety increased. His addiction grew as well. As his therapist on pretrial release stated, when Mr. Sultan "lost his mom [to dementia], he lost his mind." His mother's condition and the burden that fell on him to provide her with daily care exacerbated his worsening mental health. Mr. Sultan turned to methamphetamine to self-medicate. When he was under the influence, his judgment was incredibly impaired. It was in this drug-induced state following his mother's medical decline when Mr. Sultan began to make the calls that are charged in this case. Many of Mr. Sultan's current and verified psychological difficulties, including the offense conduct, can be attributed to his long-term use of this mind-altering drug.
His mother died in 2018.
In its own sentencing recommendation, prosecutors said Sultan had made hundreds of these threatening calls, starting with a series to an unspecified police department in the Boston area in 2015:
The calls often included claims that he had escaped a mental institution and was armed, or that he had a hostage bound in a motel room. Audible screams could be heard in the background of some such calls, consistent with a recording of a women screaming that was found during the execution of a search warrant at defendant’s residence. Law enforcement mobilized substantial resources in response to defendant’s calls.
In one case, he made so many calls to the police department in a small Indiana town, he effectively shut the department down - even as an actual woman was being raped - while they tried to respond to them, prosecutors said. That barrage also included calling the office of the town's mayor, where he gave his angry spiel to the secretary who had picked up the phone.
At least 17 states reported such calls, and the FBI was in constant contact with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for the better part of a year in response to the many dozens if not hundreds of calls made to police offices in Canada.