Pre-dawn robo-call “for” Kathleen Peters was result of “caller ID spoof”

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The mystery behind a pre-dawn series of robo calls asking voters to support state Rep. Kathleen Peters has been solved. Sort of.

The Tampa Bay Times reports the number was traced back to Barbara Homer, a 53-year-old Clearwater resident, but she’s the victim, not the perpetrator.

Homer’s phone information was pilfered through what officials call “caller ID spoofing.” Her number was then used to carry out a number of calls over several weeks. What was happening didn’t become a big deal though until it targeted Peters and her opponent for the Pinellas County House District 69, Scott Orsini.

Throughout that time Homer’s phone rang off the hook from people calling back. One of the phone calls was from an enraged woman accusing Homer of having an affair with her husband because her phone number popped up so many times.

Spoofing is against the law and carries a $10,000 penalty under the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009. Officials don’t yet know who the “spoofer” is, but Peters has asked the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, the State Attorney’s Office and the Federal Communications Commission to look into it.

A flurry of phone calls went out to people in five counties over the weekend asking voters to support Peters for a seat in Congress. She ran unsuccessfully against David Jolly in the special election for Congressional District 13 to replace the late C.W. Bill Young. It was clear something was fishy because the call was advocating for an office Peters is no longer seeking. The call also didn’t have the required disclaimers about who paid for the call.

Both the Peters and Orsini campaigns exchanged accusations that the other was involved.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.