A California teenager has been extradited to Florida amidst suspicion of being a serial "swatter," responsible for numerous swatting incidents and bomb threats across the United States.
Alan Filion, aged 17, was transferred from Orange County, California, to Seminole, Central Florida, on Tuesday. He faces three felony charges and a misdemeanor related to the swatting of a local mosque, according to the Seminole County State Attorney’s office, as first reported by Wired.
"Swatting" involves deceiving law enforcement into responding to a false violent crime report. This term emerged as perpetrators often fabricate emergencies, such as hostage situations or bomb threats, in hopes of prompting heavily armed SWAT teams to intervene.
Law enforcement officials have condemned swatting for its risks to both responders and victims, as well as its wasteful use of resources.
Authorities suspect the teenager's involvement in a May 2023 swatting incident at the Masjid Al Hayy mosque in Sanford, Florida, as reported by Fox 35 Orlando. Filion allegedly phoned the police, threatening a "mass shooting in the name of Satan," playing recorded gunfire sounds in the background, and falsely claiming explosives were present at the mosque. Around 30 officers rushed to the scene, only to find it was a hoax.
US authorities stated that Filion could be one of the most prolific swatters in American history, alleging his involvement in swatting incidents dating back to 2021. Filion is accused of targeting high schools, historically Black colleges, FBI offices, and other locations. Court documents cited by CNN indicate false bomb threats against military bases and the Pentagon.
Additionally, Filion purportedly offered to make prank calls in exchange for money, as reported by Fox. Allegedly, he offered to fake emergencies like gas leaks or fires for $40, and bomb threats or mass shootings for $75.
Filion will face trial as an adult under Florida law and is being detained without bond due to his perceived threat to the community, according to prosecutors.
His arrest follows a surge in swatting incidents nationwide, affecting politicians from both major parties. Nikki Haley, a Republican presidential candidate for 2024, has been targeted multiple times since December. In one instance, an anonymous caller falsely claimed her daughter had been shot, prompting a police response.
Similarly, Florida Senator Rick Scott, a Republican, reported being swatted in December, describing the incident as an attempt to terrorize his family.
In another incident, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, a progressive, became a swatting victim in December, as reported by WBUR. She has faced several hoax emergency calls since taking office in 2021.