Canadian man charged for swatting calls across U.S., including Minnesota

A Canadian man has been arrested and charged for a rash of swatting calls across the United States and Canada in 2022, including Minnesota.

Federal charges filed on Thursday accuse 20-year-old Ashton Connor Garcia of making more than 20 calls using voice-over-internet (VoIP) services between June 2022 and September 2022. The charges state Garcia attempted to use VoIP to hide his identity.

Garcia faces ten separate counts ranging from extortion to hoaxes and making threats. Prosecutors say Garcia engaged in "prolific swatting activity" along with a variety of other crimes.

"Several of Ashton Connor Garcia's swatting calls repeated certain false scenarios or 'scripts,'" the charges detail. "By making these swatting calls, Ashton Connor Garcia intended to cause a large-scale deployment of police resources to the residences of people he targeted."

Swatting is when a bad actor places a fake 911 or emergency call warning of a threat, like a shooting or a bomb threat, to provoke a SWAT team response to someone's home or a public place. Over the past decade or so, swatting calls have become an unfortunately regularly used technique for online harassment. Along with stressing public resources and police response, swattings have also sometimes turned deadly.

For Garcia, prosecutors say Garcia treated the calls "like entertainment." "He broadcasted swatting calls on Discord, an internet platform that allows users to communicate through voice, video, and text/chat messaging channels. He invited Discord users to watch him place swatting calls to an audience of Discord users. During some of the swatting calls, audience members pretended to be victims or perpetrators of the falsely reported crimes."

The charges add: "Garcia described himself as a 'cyber terrorist' and said 'I love being a criminal.'"

Garcia would also allegedly taunt police after they realized the call had been a hoax.

Garcia was scheduled to make his first appearance in federal court in Washington state on Thursday. He faces a significant prison sentence if convicted including up to ten years in prison for the hoaxes involving explosives alone.