- The Washington Times - Friday, March 31, 2023

A Bremerton, Washington, man was taken into custody Thursday for placing 20 “swatting” calls, altering people of fake emergencies in 11 states as well as Canada.

Swatting involves making bogus reports of an emergency that would require the intervention of a police SWAT team. Swatting examples are calling about a violent crime taking place and claiming that explosives will be detonated.

Due to the threats claimed in swatting calls, the incidents can sometimes result in violence from first responders expecting someone armed and dangerous at the provided address. In these cases, no one was hurt, according to the Department of Justice.

These calls can be made to harass or retaliate, but also to extort money from people. Ashton Connor Garcia, 20, is accused of making over 20 such calls from June 6 to Sept. 6 last year.

Mr. Garcia’s purported phone calls to law enforcement and the targets were made to Washington state as well as California, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Edmonton, Alberta.

Mr. Garcia acquired the personal information of the people he targeted and threatened them with retaliation, sometimes making calls on behalf of friends. He demanded money, cryptocurrency, credit card information and sexually explicit photos from some victims, the Justice Department said.

To hide his voice, Mr. Garcia is accused of using voice-over internet protocol technology on the phone and on the Discord platform, where he purportedly broadcast the calls as entertainment. He also used false identities in making reports to law enforcement.

Mr. Garcia told fellow Discord users that he was a “cyber terrorist,” further writing that “I love being a criminal,” according to the indictment.

Mr. Garcia faces five counts of making threats and hoaxes regarding explosives, two counts of extortion, and one count each of hoaxes regarding firearms and aircraft.

The counts of making threats and hoaxes regarding explosives carry a maximum sentence of 10 years.

“Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the unpredictable and terrifying dynamic these calls created for Mr. Garcia’s alleged victims cannot be overstated. There is nothing funny about abusing emergency resources and intentionally placing people in harm’s way,” said Nicholas Brown, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington.

• Brad Matthews can be reached at bmatthews@washingtontimes.com.

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