Hagerstown teen, two other men charged with calling in half a dozen swatting attempts across the country

10 May 2024- A federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment on Tuesday, May 7, 2024 which was unsealed earlier today, charging Owen Jarboe, age 18, of Hagerstown, Maryland, Evan Strauss, age 26, of Moneta, Virginia, and Brayden Grace, age 18, of Columbus, Ohio, with conspiracy, cyberstalking, interstate threatening communications, and threats to damage or destroy by means of fire and explosives. 

The superseding indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron and Special Agent in Charge William J. DelBagno of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office.

According to the six-count superseding indictment, from approximately December 10, 2023 through at least January 18, 2024, Evan Strauss, Owen Jarboe, and Brayden 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 superseding indictment alleges that the defendants were part of an online group known as “Purgatory” and that they used multiple online social media platforms, including Telegram and Instagram, to coordinate and plan their swatting activities and to announce swats that they had conducted.  The defendants and their conspirators often used shared scripts to obfuscate their phone numbers and identities.

Among the swatting incidents alleged in the superseding indictment are:

  • a threat to burn down a residential trailer park in Alabama;
  • a shooting threat against a teacher and unnamed students at a high school in Delaware;
  • a shooting and bomb threat to the Albany International Airport in New York;
  • a shooting and bomb threat against a casino in Ohio; and
  • a multiple homicide event and shooting threat against individuals in a residence in Eastman, Georgia.

If convicted, 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.  Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties.  A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. 

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.