18-year-old Hagerstown teen gets charged with swatting

May 13 – Owen Jarboe, 18, of Hagerstown, along with two other men, one from Virginia and one from Ohio, has been charged with conspiracy, cyberstalking, interstate threatening communications and threats to damage or destroy by means of fire and explosives, according to the US Attorney for the District of Maryland. 

According to the indictment, from approximately December 10, 2023 through at least January 18, 2024, Jarboe, along with other conspirators, knowingly and unlawfully conspired to place  swatting calls to multiple police and emergency departments across the United States.  

Swatting is calling in prank emergency calls to get police and fire personnel to respond. 

The defendants were allegedly part of an online group known as “Purgatory” and they used multiple online social media platforms, including Telegram and Instagram, to coordinate and plan their swatting activities, as well as to talk about what they had already done. 

Some of the swatting threats the group made include a threat to burn down a trailer park in Alabama; a shooting threat against a teacher and students in a high school in Delaware; a shooting and bombing threat to the Albany International Airport in New York; a shooting and bomb threat at a casino in Ohio; and a shooting and multiple homicide threat against people in Eastman, Georgia, according to the indictment.

If convicted, the US Attorney from Maryland said, each defendant faces a maximum sentence of 5 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. 

An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings. 

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “I’m stunned and amazed that you only get five years. You’re going to do swatting then the charges for each should not be five years. It should be far longer for each count here in my opinion.” 

Attorney Clint Barkdoll noted, “This is a federal case because it did involve threats across state lines. They were using communications facilities across state lines. So these are federal charges. This swatting is a problem all over the country. It’s a major drain of resources, the fear and stress aside, which is a huge factor that causes the target of these incidents. Think about all of the police and fire and first responder manpower that goes into these fake situations and all of that should be added to the restitution. My guess is if these guys get convicted, and even if the maximum is five years per charge, this would be the kind of case that a federal judge is going to make these consecutive sentences, meaning that they would get tacked on to each other so that in the aggregate it very well could end up being 10, 15, 20 years. I think that’s very possible here.”

Ryan added, “You think about, how about this, if this goes through here, your life is over for doing the stupid stuff here. If the charges get completed here, amazing to think, what? You don’t think you’re going to get caught? I’m still stunned at the level.” 

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “There really shouldn’t be mercy in this. I’m sorry. There shouldn’t be. You have to discourage this yourself and the way to discourage it is to see highly negative consequences and if five to 10 years per charge is possible, the amount of harm this is doing and people’s lives could be at stake because of this, they really have to throw the book at these guys maximally. Just now today with the odd justice system we have depending on the identity of the person, you could see charges being made less. Even the age I don’t think should be a factor here because it’s just too dangerous for society.”

Ryan said, “You’ll get your day in court, but then it’s time to pay.”

Barkdoll said, “This became a problem over the years with high profile political, public figures. You’ve seen those stories, even Hollywood types that become targets or victims of these swatting crimes and I think it should be treated very, very seriously for all the reasons that we’ve been stating. So the fact that this has been filed in federal court, I have a feeling the US Attorney in Maryland will go after this hard, but we’ll watch it. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.”