SEATTLE — A 20-year-old man from Bremerton, Washington, was arrested earlier today on an indictment charging him with 10 federal felonies related to his illegal harassment — also known as “swatting.” Ashton Connor Garcia will make his first appearance in US District Court in Tacoma today.
“Each time Mr Garcia allegedly made one of his false reports to law enforcement, he set off a potentially deadly event – by sending heavily armed police officers to an address they mistakenly believed would confront someone who was armed and was dangerous,” said US Attorney Nick Brown. “Fortunately, no one was injured, but the unpredictable and chilling dynamic that these calls created for Mr Garcia’s alleged victims cannot be overstated. It’s not fun to abuse emergency resources and intentionally put people at risk.”
“Fortunately, no one was injured when law enforcement responded to Mr. Garcia’s slaps,” said Richard A. Collodi, senior special agent in charge of the FBI’s Seattle field office. “However, it is impossible to quantify the significant damage caused by his actions, which affected communities across the country. Mr. Garcia will be held accountable for his actions, and we hope this also serves as an example of how seriously the FBI, US Attorney’s Office, state and local law enforcement agencies take these threats.”
According to the indictment, between June 2022 and early September 2022, Garcia made more than 20 beating calls to law enforcement targeting victims in California, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Washington. and Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. According to the indictment, Garcia collected personal information about his victims and then threatened his victims with harm, including making calls to send an armed police presence to their home. In some cases, he made swatting calls at the request of friends. Garcia demanded money, virtual currency, credit card information or sexually explicit photos from some of those he threatened.
Garcia used voice over internet technology to hide his identity. Using false identities, he made fake reports to non-emergency police numbers, claiming things like that he and others planted explosive devices in certain 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. He frequently used the same scripts in which he claimed his father held him hostage, false claims that he shot his parents, false claims that his father stabbed his mother, and false claims that his father raped female family members.
The false reports tied up law enforcement resources that could have been used for actual emergencies. In some cases, law enforcement entered the victim’s home with guns drawn and arrested people inside the home.
Garcia reportedly treated the swatting calls like entertainment. He spread his swatting calls via the Discord internet platform. Garcia reportedly told other Discord users that he considers himself a “cyber-terrorist.”
Specifically, the indictment charges Garcia with these crimes:
- blackmail – Ohio: On July 17, 2022, allegedly asking for credit card information or hurting the reputation of the victim, his family, would leak nude photos and “beat her.”
- Threats and Hoaxes -Ohio: On July 22, 2022, he allegedly called the Shaker Heights Police Department and falsely claimed his father was holding the family hostage with firearms and a hand grenade.
- Threats and Hoaxes – Ohio: On July 28, 2022, he allegedly called the Cleveland Police Department and falsely claimed that he planted a bomb on Fox News in Cleveland.
- Firearms hoaxes – California: On July 29, 2022, he allegedly called the Los Angeles Police Department and falsely claimed that his father raped his sister, that his father had many guns and was both mentally ill and a drug addict.
- Interstate Threats – Kentucky: On July 30, 2022, allegedly called the Kentucky State Police and threatened to kill named hostages.
- False reports about airplanes – California: On August 23, 2022, he allegedly called the Los Angeles Police Department and claimed his daughter told him there was a bomb on her flight from Honolulu to LAX.
- blackmail – New Jersey: On August 24, 2022, allegedly attempted to obtain photos and video of an underage woman’s body by threatening to accuse a family member of a crime and “hitting” them.
- Threats and false reports regarding explosives – Michigan: reportedly reported to the Milan Michigan Police Department that his father was holding him hostage with a gun and a bomb.
- Threats and Hoaxes – Tennessee: On September 2, 2022, allegedly called the Milan, Tennessee Police Department and claimed he was being held hostage by his father, who had a gun and a bomb.
- Threats and false reports regarding explosives – California: Allegedly called the Los Angeles Police Department and claimed he had hidden four pounds of C4 explosives at a Los Angeles airport and would detonate it unless he was paid $200,000 in bitcoin.
The charges contained in the indictment are allegations only. A person is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Threats and false reports involving explosives are punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Other accused threats and false reports are punishable by up to five years in prison. Extortion is punishable by up to two years in prison.
The case is being investigated by the FBI with significant assistance from numerous local law enforcement agencies in the United States and Canada.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant US Attorney Jessica Manca.