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Date: 06-05-2024

Case Style:

United States of America v. Ashton Connor Garcia

Case Number: 3:23-cr-05090

Judge: Benjamin H. Settle

Court: The United States District Court for the Western District of Washington (Pierce County)

Plaintiff's Attorney: The United States Attorney’s Office in Tacoma

Defendant's Attorney:

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Description:


Tacoma, Washington criminal defense lawyer represented the Defendant charged with extensive illegal harassing activity

Bremerton Washington, man sentenced to 3 years in prison for extensive swatting campaign targeting victims in US and Canada



Ashton Connor Garcia, a 21-year-old Bremerton, Washington, was sentenced for his extensive illegal harassing activity known as “swatting.” Ashton Connor Garcia pleaded in January 2024 to two counts of extortion, and two counts of threats and hoaxes regarding explosive., “Swatting is cruel. It is uncivilized. It is the willful terrorizing of other human beings.” Judge Settle added that he saw great need to “send a message that engaging in swatting will get more than a slap on the hand.”

“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.”

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.

In asking for a four-year prison sentence, Assistant United States Attorney Jessica Manca described some of the people harmed by Garcia’s crimes. In her sentencing memo, she wrote, “In Edmonton, Alberta, an 8-year-old boy and his mother were woken up in the night by a team of law enforcement officers with rifles. 20 officers and 7 civilian staff members were directly involved in that law enforcement response. In New Jersey, a man was removed from his house and detained at gunpoint, and an elementary school was locked down on the first day of school. Over 19 officers responded to the area, along with several officers from a neighboring police agency. In Colorado, a family was traumatized when officers suddenly broke down their front door to rescue a woman whom they believed was bleeding to death on the floor. At least 9 police units were dispatched to that incident.”

Commander Dan Grispino from the Shaker Heights Ohio Police Department traveled to Tacoma for the sentencing to ensure Garcia was held accountable. He recalled how a 12-year-old girl, was home alone when Garcia’s false call sent armed police to her home. “To see the terrified look on her face will always be with me,” Grispino 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.”

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

Today in court he expressed remorse saying, “I knew what I was doing was wrong…. I just didn’t realize the trauma I was causing.”

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

The case was 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.

Outcome:

Defendant was found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison three years in prison

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