SEATTLE — A 20-year-old Bremerton man has been arrested and charged with 10 federal felonies in connection with a crime known as “swatting,” U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington Nick Brown announced in a news release on Thursday.
Swatting involves making false reports to emergency services to bring a large police response to a location. Often, the caller falsely claims a victim has committed a crime, causing officers to surround or enter their home with weapons drawn.
According to legal documents, during a three-month period last year, Ashton Connor Garcia gathered personal information about his victims and then threatened them, including threats to make swatting calls that would send police to their homes.
He demanded money, credit card information, virtual money or sexually explicit photos from some of his victims, who lived in Washington, California, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, the indictment said.
In some cases, he made swatting calls at the request of his friends.
“Every time Mr. Garcia is alleged to have made one of his false reports to law enforcement, he triggered a potentially deadly event – sending heavily armed police officers to an address where they mistakenly believed they would confront someone who was armed and dangerous,” Brown said in a news release Thursday.
Authorities said Garcia used fake identities and voice over internet technology to make false reports to police that would garner a large response, such as claims that he and others had placed explosives at an airport.
He also falsely accused his victims of committing such crimes as murder, rape and kidnapping, and told police the people who committed the crimes were armed with weapons like knives, guns and explosives.
Garcia often made false claims that he was being held hostage by his father, that he had shot his parents, that his father stabbed his mother, and that his father had raped female family members, court documents said.
He is charged with extortion, threats and hoaxes, hoaxes regarding firearms, interstate threats, hoaxes regarding aircraft, and threats and hoaxes regarding explosives.
His case is being investigated by the FBI.
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