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'Real Lives Were at Stake': Washington Man Behind Bars for 'Swatting' 20 Victims Across U.S. and Canada

Washington Man Sentenced to 3 Years for Nationwide 'Swatting' Rampage
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Ashton Connor Garcia was sentenced to three years for 'swatting' attacks across the U.S. and Canada.

Jun. 17 2024, Published 10:02 a.m. ET

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A Washington man was recently sentenced to three years in prison for making 20 false bomb and shooting reports in "swatting" attacks across several U.S. states and Canada, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Washington announced.

Ashton Connor Garcia, 21, pleaded guilty in January to two counts of extortion, and two counts of threats and hoaxes regarding explosives. At his June sentencing, Garcia said, “I knew what I was doing was wrong…. I just didn’t realize the trauma I was causing.”

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“Swatting is cruel. It is uncivilized. It is the willful terrorizing of other human beings," U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle said at the hearing, adding that he saw a need to “send a message that engaging in swatting will get more than a slap on the hand.”

According to the plea agreement, from June 2022 through March 2023, Garcia used voiceover internet technology and social media platforms to make false emergency calls and urged others to watch his "swatting" activities via social media, and broadcast his calls on the online platform Discord. The term "swatting" refers to the special weapons and tactics, or SWAT, teams that typically respond to the hoax reports.

Garcia made 20 different false reports targeting victims in California, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Washington, and Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

When targeting the victims, Garcia harassed and threatened them, in some cases demanding money, virtual currency, credit card information or sexually explicit photos. Then he sought to send heavily armed law enforcement responses to their homes, by making false reports claiming there were explosives at the location, or by accusing the victims of crimes such as kidnapping, murder or rape, or claiming they had weapons such as firearms or explosives.

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At the sentencing hearing in Tacoma, Shaker Heights Ohio Police Department Commander Dan Grispino described how a 12-year-old girl was home alone when Garcia sent armed police to her home.

“To see the terrified look on her face will always be with me,” he said. “Swatting is not a prank, real lives were at stake…. Mr. Garcia showed no regard for the lifelong trauma he imposed on a 12-year-old girl.”

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Garcia has been held at the Federal Detention Center at SeaTac, Wash., since he violated the terms of his pretrial release last year.

“This conduct is not only outrageous, it is dangerous for the victims, for first responders and for members of the public who may need emergency response but cannot get it because resources are tied up at a false report,” said U.S. Attorney Gorman. “I hope this prosecution and sentence is a wake-up call for those who think swatting is fun or entertaining. It is a federal crime with potentially fatal consequences."

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