PORTSMOUTH, New Hampshire — A Maine man who sent emails with threats to commit crimes at gunpoint, in one instance posing as Police Chief Robert Merner, will be allowed to live in a hotel until his May 2 sentencing.
Austin Santoro, 23, of York, pleaded guilty in December to a felony count of “transmitting threatening interstate communication” and a second felony count of identity theft. One plea was his admission to using a foreign spoofing service to send emails to Portsmouth Police Department employees, which appeared to be from Merner and made threats of sexual violence at gunpoint.
The second plea alleges he did the same thing to employees at York County Community College in Wells, Maine.
Last month a judge granted Santoro’s motion to live with a relative in Springfield, Massachusetts, but, his lawyer reported to the federal court on Thursday, that’s no longer an option because the relative “is no longer willing to accept the guardian responsibilities,” or let him live at her home. Santoro’s lawyer, J. Hilary Billings, petitioned the court to now allow Santoro to live at a “long-term hotel setting in the Springfield, Massachusetts, area,” which will allow his continued employment and treatment.
Santoro is court ordered to participate in the Computer and Internet Monitoring Program, which may restrict or prohibit his use of electronic devices, according to court records.
His hotel-residency request reportedly had the approval of the probation office and was approved by U.S. District Court of Maine Judge John Rich III on March 21.
In addition to the charges involving the Portsmouth police chief, Santoro was initially alleged to have sent 10 emails to the York Police Department, three to the Kittery Police Department, seven involving Boston University, eight involving York County Community College, seven related to the town of York and one associated with the York School Department.
According to an affidavit by Homeland Security Agent Derek Dunn, to mask the source of the emails, Santoro used an electronic service based in the Czech Republic, which cooperated with the police investigation.