Someone just learned a hard lesson about the consequences of faking threats: 22-year-old Connecticut man Matthew Tollis, who was accused of participating in several SWATing incidents, including a major bomb threat hoax, was sentenced in federal court this past Tuesday to a year and a day in prison, plus community service.
His sentence begins November 5th.
Tollis pled guilty in June to “conspiring to engage in the malicious conveying of false information,” a charge that could have netted him up to five years in prison. He was first arrested in September 2014 for his role in a bomb threat hoax at the University of Connecticut earlier that year, which shut down the campus for several hours.
Court documents indicate that Tollis was part of an Xbox team called TCOD (Team Crucifix Or Die), who initiated several swatting incidents by using Skype to call in fake hostage, bomb, mass murder, and firearms threats in order to cause a disruption by luring emergency services – such as SWAT teams – to certain locations.The practice is often used as a form of revenge or pranking.
The FBI has located at least one other member of TCOD in Scotland and is working with local authorities to track down and arrest other members believed to live in the UK.
This sentencing could be a sign that authorities are taking SWATting more seriously and want to send a message to other would-be SWATters.
U.S. Attorney Dierdre Daly warns that the practice is “not a schoolboy prank, it’s a federal crime,” one that causes “severe emotional distress” to its victims and wastes vital emergency resources. Others, such as Princeton Police Chief Nick Sutter, have gone so far as to call the practice “terrorism” that he believes has become an “epidemic” across the country.
The FBI’s determination to track down the other members of TCOD certainly shows that the federal government doesn’t think this is any laughing matter.