Teen Charged in Florida Mosque Swatting Accused of Hundreds of Other False Threats

The 17-year-old is accused of making hundreds of swatting threats against high schools, HBCUs, FBI agents, and government offices.

Teen Charged in Florida Mosque Swatting Accused of Hundreds of Other False Threats

Photo: Seminole County Sheriffs Office

A California teenager has been charged with multiple felonies in connection with a swatting incident at a Florida mosque last year.

Alan Winston Filion, 17, was arrested last month at his home by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on a warrant from Seminole County, Fla., according to court documents filed by state prosecutors. He was extradited to Florida on Tuesday where he faces three charges of false reporting and one charge of unlawful use of a two-way communication device, ABC reports. Filion, who is being prosecuted as an adult, pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail at the John E. Polk Correctional Facility.

Investigators said Seminole County law enforcement received a call last May from someone saying he was armed with a handgun and explosives and was entering the Masjid Al Hayy Mosque in Sanford to carry out a mass shooting. The caller referenced Satanism and somehow simulated gunfire, according to Fox. About 30 law enforcement officers responded but found no shooter and determined it was a hoax.

The Seminole County Sheriff’s Office began working with the FBI to investigate several accounts on websites offering swatting services and sharing recordings of swatting calls. Various IP addresses connected to the accounts led to Filion’s home address in Lancaster, Calif., and the FBI served a search warrant at the home in July. Filion was arrested based on incriminating evidence gathered from seized devices. The affidavit also alleges Filion has posted many antisemitic comments online.

“Swatting is a perilous and senseless crime, which puts innocent lives in dangerous situations and drains valuable resources,” Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma wrote in a statement. “The substantial law enforcement response in this swatting case underscores our unwavering dedication to community safety and holding offenders accountable, regardless of where they are located.”

Teen Accused of Hundreds of Swatting Calls at Schools, Government Offices

Filion is also accused of making hundreds of swatting threats against high schools, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), homes of FBI agents, government offices, and military bases, according to a motion filed by the government to secure his detention in the mosque case.

According to the arrest warrant affidavit, Filion posted a diagram online threatening to call in bomb threats to an FBI facility in West Virginia that houses an online database for swatting tracking and prevention. Shortly after, a 911 caller claimed he stashed three dozen pipe bombs around the facility that would detonate in 30 minutes, NBC reports. He also reportedly threatened to swat Supreme Court justices and senators.

In the following days, several top FBI special agents at field offices in Pittsburgh, Oklahoma City and San Antonio, as well as the head of the Criminal Justice Information Services Division in Washington, D.C., were all targeted by swatting calls at their homes. The caller’s voice in the mosque incident allegedly matched the voice heard in the swatting calls involving FBI personnel. Investigators also claim they found posts where Filion admitted to swatting his own home.

A staggering increase in swatting incidents in recent years led the FBI to create the swatting command center in West Virginia to help facilitate information sharing between hundreds of police departments and law enforcement agencies. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), there were an estimated 1,000 swatting incidents each year. Each incident is estimated to cost affected communities at least $10,000 — not including investigation, property repairs, and counseling.

Mitigating School Swatting Threats

In September and October of last year, at least 28 states reported hoax 911 calls about active shooters on school campuses. NPR estimates that nearly 200 schools were targeted during that time frame. In December, NPR also reported that one man made hundreds of false active shooter reports to hundreds of K-12 campuses and law enforcement agencies, impacting at least eight counties in Georgia.

As AI technologies become more commonplace, K-12 schools and colleges are likely to see a continued influx in swatting threats. Campuses must keep up-to-date with leading practices for combatting these pervasive, costly and sometimes deadly threats.

Here are some resources on addressing swatting threats on school campuses:

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About the Author

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Amy is Campus Safety’s Executive Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy has many close relatives and friends who are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

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