Three Men Charged in ‘Swatting’ Schemes in which Admitted Hoax-Maker Targeted Individuals, Schools and a Convention Center
LOS ANGELES – Three men allegedly conspired with admitted “swatter” Tyler Rai Barriss to make hoax reports of bombs and murders to police departments, high schools and a convention center across the United States, according to three indictments unsealed today.
The three new cases allege that the men agreed with Barriss to make false reports of explosives and armed individuals to generate a law enforcement response that was intended to harass and intimidate their targets and to evacuate public buildings.
Special agents with the FBI this morning arrested two of the defendants, and a third has agreed to surrender to federal authorities in Los Angeles.
Those charged in the indictments unsealed today are:
Neal Patel, 23, of Des Plaines, Illinois, also known by his Twitter handles @internetlord and @defeat, who was arrested this morning;
Tyler Stewart, 19, of Gulf Breeze, Florida, also known by his Twitter handle @tragic, who was arrested this morning; and
Logan Patten, 19, of Greenwood, Missouri, also known by his Twitter handle @spared, who has agreed to surrender.
The three defendants are charged in separate indictments with conspiracy and conveying false information concerning the use of an explosive device.
“Swatting,” according to the indictments, is “the action or practice of harassing a victim by deceiving an emergency service into sending police and emergency service response teams, including special weapons and tactics (SWAT) teams, to the victim’s address, often by making a false report of a serious law enforcement emergency – such as a murder or hostage situation – at the victim’s address to trigger the deployment of the response team.”
Patel allegedly conspired with Barriss over several days in early December 2017 to make false police reports to law enforcement authorities in Milford, Connecticut. The pair also conspired to make a false bomb threat targeting a video game convention in Dallas, Texas, according to the indictment. Patel also faces bank fraud charges for allegedly using unauthorized credit card numbers to purchase items of clothing for Barriss.
Stewart is charged with conspiring with Barriss to cause the evacuation of a high school in Gurnee, Illinois by making two false bomb threats in early December 2017. In the second incident, Barriss allegedly called the Gurnee Police Department, claimed the explosives had been left in a high school classroom, and stated he was high on methamphetamine and was considering shooting teachers and students.
Patten is charged with hiring Barriss, also in December 2017, to swat individuals by making false reports to the Indianapolis (Indiana) Metropolitan Police Department and the Hamilton County (Ohio) Sheriff’s Department. Patten also allegedly schemed with Barriss to swat a high school in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, at the direction of an uncharged juvenile. In this case, Patten is also charged with making threats to injure in interstate commerce.
Patel and Stewart are expected to make initial court appearances where they were arrested today in the Northern District of Illinois and the Northern District of Florida.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Barriss pleaded guilty on November 13 to a total of 51 charges brought by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles, Kansas, and Washington, D.C. His sentencing in United States District Court in Wichita, Kansas, is scheduled for March 1. Pursuant to a plea agreement, Barriss has agreed to serve a sentence of 20 to 25 years in federal prison.
The charge of conspiracy carries a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison and the charge of conveying false information concerning the use of explosive device carries a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
The charge of making threats to injure in interstate commerce carries a statutory maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.
The two bank fraud charges alleged against Patel each carry up to 30 years in federal prison.
The investigation into the swatting incidents is being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The cases announced today are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney George E. Pence of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section.