YouTube, Discord, and ‘Lord of the Rings’ Led Police to a Teen Accused of a US Swatting Spree

A California teenager prosecutors say is responsible for hundreds of swatting attacks around the United States was exposed after law enforcement pieced together a digital trail left on some of the internet’s largest platforms, according to court records released this week.

Alan Winston Filion, a 17-year-old from Lancaster, California, faces four felony charges in Florida’s Seminole County related to swatting, or fake threats called into the police to provoke a forceful response, according to Florida state prosecutors. Police arrested Filion on January 18, and he was extradited to Seminole County this week.

Filion’s arrest, first reported by WIRED on January 26, marks the culmination of a multi-agency manhunt for the person police claim is responsible for swatting attacks on high schools, historically black colleges and universities, mosques, and federal agents, and for threats to bomb the Pentagon, members of the United States Senate, and the US Supreme Court. Ultimately, a YouTube channel, Discord chats, and usernames related to The Lord of the Rings helped lead authorities to Filion’s doorstep.

Florida prosecutors charged Filion with four felony counts, including three related to allegedly making false reports to law enforcement and one for unlawful use of a two-way radio for “facilitating or furthering an act of terrorism” that authorities say targeted people based on race, religion, or other protected classes. While prosecutors alleged that Filion “is responsible for hundreds of swatting and bomb threat incidents throughout the United States,” the charges Filion faces relate to a single May 12, 2023, swatting attack against the Masjid Al Hayy Mosque in Sanford, Florida.

An attorney for Filion was not immediately available to respond to WIRED’s request for comment.

More than a year before the swatting attack on the Florida mosque, agents with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation interviewed Filion’s father, William, at his home in Lancaster, California, according to court documents made public on Wednesday. The interview took place on April 21, 2022, the same day the owner of a Telegram channel linked to swatting activity posted, “SOMEONE JUST REPORTED ME TO THE FBI… LOL!”

In October 2022, authorities investigating swatting incidents involving calls made to a school in Anacortes, Washington, came across a Telegram user associated with multiple swatting and doxing channels. The user, “Nazgul Swattings,” had claimed responsibility in one of these channels for the threats to the Washington schools, according to the same court documents.

Over the following months, court records say, the FBI monitored channels linked to this user. One of those, a channel called Torswats (formerly Nazgul Swats), had shared recordings of nearly 20 hoax calls threatening locations around the country, including schools in Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

As the FBI tracked Torswats’ public channels, Brad “Cafrozed” Dennis, a private investigator, was running his own parallel investigation on behalf of high-profile Twitch streamers who’d been swatted. In December, Dennis reached out to a user behind Torswats and asked to chat on a peer-to-peer chatting service called Tox under the guise of ordering a swat. According to records shared with WIRED, not mentioned in the arrest warrant, while interacting on Tox, Dennis used Wireshark to monitor his network traffic. In the process, he uncovered an IP address and the username “Paimon Arnum,” which was previously unknown to law enforcement.

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