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Man Sentenced to Years Behind Bars in Swatting Case

( – A Washington State man has been jailed after repeatedly making fake calls to police. The 21-year-old called in false bomb warnings and accused other people of crimes to get responders sent to their homes. The judge said he was jailing him to send a message that “swatting” is a serious crime during sentencing.

In January, Ashton Connor Garcia pleaded guilty to two counts of extortion and two counts of threats and hoaxes regarding explosives. Garcia had made at least 20 calls to police across ten states and one Canadian province. In some, he claimed to have planted bombs. In others, he accused victims of a range of crimes, including rape, murder, and kidnapping. It turned out he’d tried to blackmail some of those victims, threatening them with harm — including “swatting,” so-called because it involves getting a SWAT team sent to someone’s home — if they didn’t pay up.

As well as attempting blackmail, Garcia used his swatting as entertainment. He broadcast calls to police over the internet chat app Discord, and told online friends he was a “cyber terrorist.” In his plea deal, he admitted he’d wanted to force large-scale police deployments. Although he could have faced up to 10 years in prison for the threats he made, part of his plea agreement was that prosecutors would recommend a maximum of four years.

At Garcia’s sentencing hearing on June 5, US District Judge Benjamin H Settle honored the agreement and sentenced Garcia to three years imprisonment. The judge said he felt the sentence was appropriate because he needed to send a message that anyone who carried out a swatting attack “will get more than a slap on the hand.”

That message needs to get through because swatting is a growing problem. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) was one recent high-profile victim, but most swatting is done to harass, intimidate, or retaliate against someone as part of a personal dispute — and it can have deadly consequences.

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