Sunday, November 19, 2017
Public safety

Tampa man arrested after more than 1,200 fake 911 calls

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TAMPA — He might be the most prolific 911 crank caller in Tampa Bay history. He made one of his last calls about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. It lasted three minutes and 26 seconds.

"911, what is your emergency?" the dispatcher asked. "Hello?"

No one replied.

The calls started Dec. 31, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, and ended Wednesday.

In those 45 days, he made more than 1,200 calls, an average of 27 per day. All came from an unregistered phone the Sheriff's Office tracked to the area of Massaro and Tampa East boulevards.

In many, he didn't say anything. In 19, he spoke. Sometimes he cursed at the dispatcher, the Sheriff's Office said. Sometimes, like in this call, he feigned danger.

"You better put the knife down," he said 34 seconds in. "I'm telling you that right now."

"What was that?" the dispatcher asked.

"He needs to put that knife down."

"What knife?"

"Always threaten me with that knife, huh? Why do you always threaten me with that knife?"

"Sir, who are you talking to?"

One time he was locked in the trunk of a car, the Sheriff's Office said. Another time he was being chased. One time he repeatedly yelled "Help!" Sometimes deputies responded. Sometimes deputies with dogs responded. One time a helicopter responded.

The exact cost of fielding more than 1,200 false 911 calls was unknown Thursday, said Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cristal Bermudez Nunez. But the helicopter alone cost $350 per hour.

"This easily ended up costing taxpayers in the thousands of dollars," Nunez said.

So deputies started looking. They drove through the area, hoping to be there when he called. At 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Nunez said, they were.

At 2602 Tampa East Blvd., Color Concepts, a commercial printing company.

There they found Jason Michael Honaker, 38, who, deputies said, admitted to making some, but not all of the calls.

If the Tampa man did make all of the calls, he was remarkably prolific.

A Nevada man was arrested in 2012 and accused of making 3,600 false 911 calls in a year. Honaker was on pace to more than double that, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Deputies arrested Honaker on Wednesday on seven felony counts. More could be added, Nunez said. He was released from jail after posting $14,000 bail.

Honaker returned to work Thursday at the commercial printer. He didn't return a call for comment.

His criminal past includes convictions for felony burglary and grand theft; and misdemeanor marijuana possession and possession of drug paraphernalia, according to state records.

Whoever was supposedly holding the knife in the Wednesday morning call never made a noise. The caller kept talking, though.

"One day, the police are going to get here, and they're going to see you doing that," he said.

"What's your name, sir?"

He never answered. A minute later, a series of mechanic whistles. Then the phone went dead.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Will Hobson can be reached at (813) 226-3400 or whobson@tampabay.com.

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