A York man pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to sending phony emails that pretended to be from a police chief and a college employee that contained lewd images and threats of violence.

Austin Santoro, 23, admitted in U.S. District Court in Portland to transmitting threatening interstate communications and identity theft. The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced the plea in a news release Monday.

Court documents show that Santoro emailed the employees of the police department in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, threatening to sexually assault them at gunpoint. He used an email “spoofing” service to make it appear that the message came from the police chief.

Later that day, the defendant sent a similar email to employees of York County Community College. He made that message appear to come from a college employee.

Santoro originally faced 11 charges for sending similar emails to other people. It is not clear if those charges were resolved as part of the plea deal.

He has not yet been sentenced. The crimes carry a penalty of up to five years in prison for the threat charges, up to 20 years for the identity theft charges and a $250,000 fine on each.

The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.

Megan Gray can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: mainemegan

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