Catonsville Man Pleads Guilty To Conspiracy In “Swatting” Incident
Made False 9-1-1 Call to Provoke Emergency Response
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact ELIZABETH MORSE
www.justice.gov/usao/md at (410) 209-4885
Baltimore, Maryland – Zachary Lee, age 25, of Catonsville, Maryland, pleaded guilty today Conspiracy to Provide False Information and False Information and Hoax relating to a scheme to cause an emergency services response, a practice known as “swatting.”
The plea was announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Stephen M. Schenning; Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; Chief Gary L. Gardner of the Howard County Police Department; and Howard County State’s Attorney Dario Broccolino.
According to Lee’s plea agreement, between February 17 and February 18, 2015, Lee, who resided in Ellicott City at the time, and co-conspirator Robert Walker-McDaid, age 19, of Coventry, England, United Kingdom, 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, 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 individual were participants in that call. 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. The victim suffered significant injuries to his face and chest, including bruised lungs, a fractured rib, and numerous broken bones to the left side of his face. He was transported to the hospital where he underwent approximately three facial reconstructive surgeries.
This “swatting” caused over 40 officers to respond to T.D.’s home and remain there for over 2.5 hours and cost the Howard County Police Department over $10,000. 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.
If the Court accepts the parties’ plea agreement, Lee will be sentenced to 2 years in prison.
Walker-McDaid has been arrested in the United Kingdom and is currently in extradition proceedings. United States District Judge Marvin J. Garbis has scheduled sentencing for January 18, 2018 at 11 a.m. Lee remains detained.
Acting United States Attorney Stephen M. Schenning commended the FBI, Howard County Police Department, and Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office for their work in the investigation. Mr. Schenning thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lauren E. Perry and Zachary A. Myers, who are prosecuting the case.