Washington state man sentenced for 20 ‘swatting’ calls of false threats in U.S., Canada

TACOMA, Wash. — A Washington state man who made 20 false reports of bombs and shootings around the U.S. and in Canada, prompting real emergency responses, has been sentenced to three years in prison, U.S. authorities said.

Ashton Connor Garcia, 21, of Bremerton, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Tacoma on Tuesday, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington. Garcia pleaded guilty in January to two counts of extortion and two counts of threats and hoaxes regarding explosives.

As part of his plea deal, Garcia admitted he intended the calls to cause the deployment of SWAT teams, bomb squads and other law enforcement to the targeted locations.

Garcia used voice-over-internet technology to conceal his identity when he placed the so-called swatting calls between June 2022 and March 2023 and also broadcasted them on a social media platform, according to federal prosecutors.

In two of the cases, he called in fake bomb scares for the Fox News station in Cleveland and for a flight from Honolulu to Los Angeles. In another instance, he threatened to bomb an airport in Los Angeles unless he received $200,000 in Bitcoin, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said he collected personal information about several victims and threatened to send emergency responses to their homes unless they turned over money, credit card information or sexually explicit images.

Law enforcement entered some of the homes with guns drawn and detained people, authorities said.

The plea agreement details 20 different false emergency reports targeting victims in California, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Washington and Edmonton, Alberta, according to prosecutors.

Garcia’s arrest came amid a spate of threats and false reports of shooters in schools and colleges nationwide. Another surge of false reporting calls, many targeting public officials, occurred earlier this year and late last year.

Some swatting incidents have led to police shooting people, and officials also say they worry about diverting resources from real emergencies.

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