SANFORD, Fla. — A California teenager accused of swatting a Florida mosque has been arrested and transported across the country to face felony charges.
Alan Winston Filion, 17, was arrested Jan. 18 by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on a warrant from Seminole County, Florida, according to court records. He was extradited to central Florida on Tuesday to face three charges of false reporting and one charge of unlawful use of a two-way communication device. He is being prosecuted as an adult.
“Swatting is a perilous and senseless crime, which puts innocent lives in dangerous situations and drains valuable resources,” Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma said in a statement. “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.”
Swatting is the practice of making a prank call to emergency services in an attempt to bring about the dispatch of a large number of armed police officers to a particular address. Bomb threats go back decades in the U.S., but swatting has become especially popular in recent years as people and groups target celebrities and politicians.
Seminole County law enforcement received a call last May from someone saying that he was entering the Masjid Al Hayy Mosque in Sanford to conduct a mass shooting, according to the sheriff’s office. About 30 law enforcement officers responded but found no shooter and determined the call to be a swatting incident.
The sheriff’s office began working with the FBI to investigate several accounts on websites offering swatting services. Various IP addresses connected to these accounts led to Filion’s home address in Lancaster, California, and the FBI served a search warrant at the home in July, officials said. Based on evidence collected during the search, investigators obtained a warrant for Filion’s arrest.
The SCSO Domestic Security Division continued investigating the incident alongside the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Investigators believe that Filion may also be connected to other swatting incidents across the United States. According to court records, Filion appears to have targeted high schools, colleges, mosques, government offices and military bases in multiple states.
A defense attorney listed for Filion in court records didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment from The Associated Press.