Three men allegedly conspired with an admitted Los Angeles-based “swatter” to make hoax reports of bombs and murders to police departments, high schools and a convention center across the United States, according to three indictments unsealed Wednesday.
The three new cases allege that the men agreed with Tyler Rai Barriss to make false reports of explosives and armed individuals to generate a law enforcement response that was intended to harass and intimidate their targets and force the evacuation of public buildings, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Special agents with the FBI early Wednesday arrested two of the defendants, and a third has agreed to surrender to federal authorities in Los Angeles.
Those charged in the indictments, filed in Los Angeles federal court, are:
— Neal Patel, 23, of Des Plaines, Illinois, also known by his Twitter handles @internetlord and @defeat, who was arrested Wednesday;
— Tyler Stewart, 19, of Gulf Breeze, Florida, also known by his Twitter handle @tragic, who was also arrested Wednesday; and
— Logan Patten, 19, of Greenwood, Missouri, also known by his Twitter handle @spared, who has agreed to surrender.
The three defendants are charged in separate indictments with conspiracy and conveying false information concerning the use of an explosive device.
Swatting, according to the indictments, is “the action or practice of harassing a victim by deceiving an emergency service into sending police and emergency service response teams, including special weapons and tactics — SWAT — teams, to the victim’s address, often by making a false report of a serious law enforcement emergency — such as a murder or hostage situation — at the victim’s address to trigger the deployment of the response team.”
Patel allegedly conspired with Barriss over several days in early December 2017 to make false police reports to law enforcement authorities in Milford, Connecticut. The pair also conspired to make a false bomb threat targeting a video game convention in Dallas, Texas, according to the indictment.
Patel also faces bank fraud charges for allegedly using unauthorized credit card numbers to purchase items of clothing for Barriss.
Stewart is charged with conspiring with Barriss to cause the evacuation of a high school in Gurnee, Illinois by making two false bomb threats in early December 2017. In the second incident, Barriss allegedly called the Gurnee Police Department, claimed the explosives had been left in a high school classroom, and stated he was high on methamphetamine and was considering shooting teachers and students, according to federal prosecutors.
Patten is charged with hiring Barriss, also in December 2017, to swat individuals by making false reports to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and the sheriff’s department of Hamilton County, Ohio. Patten also allegedly schemed with Barriss to swat a high school in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, at the direction of an uncharged juvenile. In that case, Patten is also charged with making threats to injure in interstate commerce, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Patel and Stewart were expected to make initial court appearances where they were arrested in the Northern District of Illinois and the Northern District of Florida, respectively.
Barriss pleaded guilty on Nov. 13 to a total of 51 charges brought by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles, Kansas and Washington, D.C. His sentencing in U.S. District Court in Wichita, Kansas, is scheduled for March 1. Pursuant to a plea agreement, Barriss has agreed to serve a sentence of 20 to 25 years in federal prison.
The charge of conspiracy carries a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison and the charge of conveying false information concerning the use of explosive device carries a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
The charge of making threats to injure in interstate commerce carries a statutory maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. The two bank fraud charges alleged against Patel each carry up to 30 years in federal prison, prosecutors said.