Georgia Resident Sentenced to Over Three Years in Prison for Threatening Several Palm Beach County Locations
Preston Alexander McWaters was sentenced by United States District Judge James I. Cohn, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to forty-two months in prison for sending threatening communications to several Palm Beach County locations.
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, and Lawrence Leon, Chief, Palm Beach County School District Police Department, made the announcement.
McWaters, 26, of Athens, Georgia, previously pled guilty before U.S. District Judge James I. Cohn to four counts of transmitting a threat in interstate commerce to injure another person, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 875(c), and two counts of conveying false and misleading information indicating that a bombing of a place of public use would take place, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1038(a)(1)(A) and (c).
According to the factual proffer accompanying his plea, McWaters, over the course of several months in late 2015 and early 2016, sent numerous e-mails and other communications threatening to bomb various locations in Palm Beach County, including schools, a hospital, a business and the Palm Beach International Airport. McWaters also posted a number of threats to injure a woman who had previously obtained a protective order against him as well as to injure the family of a high school principal in Palm Beach County. McWaters used tools to prevent law enforcement from tracing the online threats back to him, and exerted substantial effort to implicate a romantic rival and, later, his rival’s then-girlfriend in an attempt to conceal his identity. The FBI ultimately was able to trace the threats back to McWaters, who was arrested in March 2016.
While awaiting sentencing McWaters sent and attempted to send additional threating communications to others. The subsequent criminal conduct increased McWaters’ sentencing guidelines.
Mr. Ferrer commended the outstanding investigative efforts of the FBI, Palm Beach County School District Police Department and the Jupiter Police Department. Mr. Ferrer also thanked the myriad of law enforcement partners in Florida and Georgia, including the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office, the Jupiter Police Department, the West Palm Beach Police Department, the University of Georgia Police Department, the Clarke County Georgia Police Department, and the United States Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Georgia, for their assistance. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Edward Nucci, Karen Gilbert, and Adam Fels.