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Press Release

Bremerton, Washington man pleads guilty to four federal felonies connected to his extensive “swatting” scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington
False reports tie up emergency resources and put victims at risk with armed police response to fake reports of violence and danger

Tacoma –A 21-year-old Bremerton, Washington, man pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma today to four federal felonies stemming from his extensive illegal harassing activity known as “swatting,” announced U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman. Ashton Connor Garcia pleaded guilty to two counts of extortion, and two counts of threats and hoaxes regarding explosives. U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle scheduled sentencing for April 15, 2024.

According to the plea agreement and records in the case, from early June 2022 through March 2023, Garcia used voice over internet technology and social media platforms to make false emergency calls to dispatch services while urging others watch his illegal activity via social media. In his plea agreement, Garcia admits he intended his calls to cause a large-scale deployment of special weapons and tactics (SWAT) teams, bomb squads, and other police units to the targeted locations. He made these calls with malicious intent to harass, intimidate, and retaliate against certain individuals and organizations, and to obtain items of value through extortion.

The plea agreement details 20 different false emergency reports targeting victims in California, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Washington, and Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Garcia gathered personal information about his victims, and then threatened some of his victims with harm, including placing swatting calls to send an armed police presence to their home. Garcia demanded money, virtual currency, credit card information, or sexually explicit photos from some of the people he threatened.

Garcia made fake reports to non-emergency police numbers claiming things such as that he and others had planted explosive devices in particular locations. He falsely accused other individuals of committing crimes, such as murder, rape, and kidnapping, and he falsely claimed that these individuals possessed dangerous weapons, such as knives, firearms, and explosive devices. Frequently, he used the same scripts claiming that his father was holding him hostage, false claims that he shot his parents, false claims that his father stabbed his mother, and false claims that his father had raped female members of the family.

The false reports tied up law enforcement resources that could have been used for actual emergencies. In some instances, law enforcement entered the victim residence with weapons drawn and detained people at the residence.

Garcia treated the swatting calls like entertainment. He broadcast his swatting calls via the internet platform Discord. Garcia told other Discord users that he considered himself a “cyber terrorist.”

Threats and hoaxes involving explosives are punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Extortion is punishable by up to two years in prison. Prosecutors have agreed to recommend no more than 4 years in prison. Judge Settle is not bound by the recommendation and can impose any sentence allowed by law.

Garcia remains detained at the Federal Detention Center at SeaTac, Washington.

The case is being investigated by the FBI, with substantial assistance from numerous local law enforcement agencies throughout the United States and in Canada.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jessica Manca.

 

Contact

Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Communications Director Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@usdoj.gov.

Updated January 26, 2024

Topics
Cybercrime
Domestic Terrorism