Hagerstown teen indicted in cyber 'swatting' conspiracy for incidents around the country

BALTIMORE – A Hagerstown teen is among three defendants charged with "swatting" in an indictment that was unsealed Thursday, according to the United States Attorney's Office for Maryland.

"Swatting" is a form of cyber harassment designed to send an armed emergency response team to a victim's location.

A federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment on Tuesday charging Owen Jarboe, 18, of Hagerstown; Evan Strauss, 26, of Moneta, Va.; and Brayden Grace, 18, of Columbus, Ohio, with conspiracy, cyberstalking, interstate threatening communications and threats to damage or destroy by means of fire and explosives.

The indictment was announced in a news release Thursday by United States Attorney for of Maryland Erek L. Barron and Special Agent in Charge William J. DelBagno of the FBI's Baltimore Field Office.

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According to the six-count superseding indictment, from approximately Dec. 10, 2023, through at least Jan. 18, 2024, Strauss, Jarboe and Grace, along with other conspirators, "knowingly and unlawfully conspired to place and caused to be placed swatting calls to multiple police and emergency departments across the United States."

The indictment alleges they were part of an online group known as “Purgatory,” and used multiple online social media platforms, including Telegram and Instagram, to coordinate and plan their swatting activities and to announce swats they had conducted. It alleges they often used shared scripts to conceal their phone numbers and identities.

The swatting incidents alleged in the superseding indictment include:

  • a threat to burn down a residential trailer park in Alabama

  • a shooting threat against a teacher and unnamed students at a Delaware high school

  • a shooting and bomb threat to the Albany International Airport in New York

  • a shooting and bomb threat against a casino in Ohio

  • a multiple-homicide event and shooting threat against individuals in a residence in Eastman, Ga.

If convicted, each faces a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison for each count of conspiracy, cyberstalking and interstate threat; and a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison on each charge to damage or destroy by means of fire and explosive.

A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors, according to the release.

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An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.

Barron credited the FBI Baltimore Field Office and the Joint Terrorism Task Force and police agencies in Columbus, Ohio; Newark, Del.; Lenoir City, Tenn.; Albany, N.Y.; Albany County, N.Y; Fairburn City, Ga.; Bethel Park, Pa; Giles County, Va.; Blue Springs, Mo.; Tarboro, N.C; Boston; Dodge County, Ga.; Houston County, Ala.; and the FBI’s Mobile, Richmond, Boston, Charlotte and Cincinnati Field Offices for their assistance. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kathleen O. Gavin and Robert I. Goldaris are prosecuting the case.

This article originally appeared on The Herald-Mail: 'Swatting' indictment accuses Hagerstown teen in multiple incidents