British and American Men Indicted for “Swatting”
Defendants Allegedly Made False 9-1-1 Call Provoke Emergency Response
Baltimore, Maryland – A federal grand jury has indicted Zachary Lee, age 25, of Catonsville, Maryland, and Robert Walker McDaid, age 19, of Coventry, England, United Kingdom, on charges related to a scheme to provide false information to cause an emergency services response, a practice known as “swatting.” The indictment was returned on January 11, 2017, and unsealed today upon the arrest of Lee.
The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; Chief Gary Gardner of the Howard County Police Department; and Howard County State’s Attorney Dario Broccolino.
“We are working with officials in the United Kingdom to insure that Robert Walker McDaid is held accountable for his alleged actions because the alleged criminal activity represents a grave threat to public safety,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.
According to the three-count indictment, between February 17 and February 18, 2015, Lee and McDaid conspired to convey false information about a hostage situation that would cause armed law enforcement officers to be dispatched to the home of an acquaintance of Lee (the victim).
Specifically, the indictment alleges that on February 17, 2015, Lee messaged McDaid via an internet telephone service and stated, “I have someone I need sw@tted.” At McDaid’s request, Lee provided McDaid with the address of the victim and McDaid responded to Lee, “il do it when im up.” On February 18, 2015, a call from McDaid’s internet telephone account was made to the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center’s (MCAC) Terrorism Hotline. Lee, McDaid, and another co-conspirator were participants in that call. The indictment alleges that the caller pretended to be the victim and stated that he had a loaded gun, several bags of plastic explosives, and three hostages. The caller demanded $15,000 in cash be delivered in a red bag to the victim’s address. The caller stated that he would start executing the hostages in 15 minutes if his demands were not met. Shortly after police arrived at the address, Lee allegedly posted on his Facebook account, “Love my team.”
At the time the call was made, authorities were not aware that the emergency call was false. A Howard County Police Department (HCPD) Tactical team went to the address provided by the callers, and ultimately shot the victim with rubber bullets in the chest and face. Investigators subsequently discovered that the victim was not in possession of loaded firearms or explosives, did not make the emergency call, and there were no hostages at the residence.
The defendants face a maximum sentence of five years in prison for the conspiracy; a maximum of 20 years in prison for false information and hoax; and a mandatory two years in prison, consecutive to any other sentence imposed for aggravated identity theft. An initial appearance has been scheduled for Lee in U.S. District Court in Baltimore today at 2:15 p.m.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the FBI, Howard County Police Department, and Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lauren E. Perry and Zachary A. Myers, who are prosecuting the case.