Home U.S. News Teen Accused of Swatting Call at Florida Mosque Is Thought to Be Behind Many More

Teen Accused of Swatting Call at Florida Mosque Is Thought to Be Behind Many More

Teen Accused of Swatting Call at Florida Mosque Is Thought to Be Behind Many More

A California teenager believed to be behind dozens of so-called swatting calls across the country was extradited to Florida on Wednesday after being charged last month in connection with a false report of a mass shooting at a mosque last year, the authorities said.

The teenager, Alan Winston Filion, 17, of Lancaster, Calif., was arrested on Jan. 18 in California and charged as an adult on four felony charges, including falsely reporting an act of terrorism with a bomb or weapon of mass destruction, the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office in Florida said in a statement on Wednesday. Mr. Filion arrived in Seminole County, Fla., on Wednesday and was being held without bond at the John E. Polk Correctional Facility, the sheriff’s office said.

Mr. Filion is to be arraigned on March 19, according to court records.

The F.B.I. considers swatting, which involves a false report of an emergency, a form of harassment. The agency has said that there had been an increase in swatting calls in the past few years at public places like airports and schools, as well as at the homes of well-known figures.

An investigation into Mr. Filion began last year after he called the Sanford Police Department in Florida on May 12, 2023, and said that he was heading into the Al Hayy mosque with a fully automatic rifle to carry out a mass shooting, according to an arrest affidavit.

While on the phone with the police, Mr. Filion then played audio of gunfire in the background, which prompted more than 30 law enforcement officers to respond to the mosque, according to the affidavit. Once there, the officers saw that there was no gunman and that everyone at the mosque was safe, the sheriff’s office said.

F.B.I. agents served a search warrant at Mr. Filion’s home in California on July 15, 2023, and obtained a number of “devices.” Social media activity and other information gathered from those devices, which agents didn’t specifically identify, led the authorities to believe that Mr. Filion could have been behind dozens of swatting calls across the country that targeted a government building, a Jewish children’s hospital, several schools, several historically Black colleges and universities, and his own home, according to the arrest affidavit.

If Mr. Filion is found to be behind those other swatting calls, he could face additional charges in other cities, the sheriff’s office said.

A lawyer for Mr. Filion and Seminole County prosecutors did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

Sheriff Dennis Lemma of Seminole County said in a statement on Wednesday that swatting “puts innocent lives in dangerous situations and drains valuable resources.”

“The substantial law enforcement response in this swatting case underscores our unwavering dedication to community safety and holding offenders accountable, regardless of where they are located,” Sheriff Lemma said.

Religious buildings, such as synagogues, have faced swatting attempts in recent years. Political figures have also been targeted, including Nikki Haley, the Republican presidential candidate, in December. Jack Smith, the special counsel who filed the election subversion indictment against President Donald J. Trump, was also targeted by a swatting attempt in December.

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