September 10, 2014

Wethersfield Man Charged Federally for Role in Swatting Incidents at UConn, Elsewhere

Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Patricia M. Ferrick, Special Agent in Charge of the New Haven Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, announced that MATTHEW TOLLIS, 21, of Wethersfield, was arrested today on a federal criminal complaint charging him with participating in a series of “swatting” incidents that occurred earlier this year in Connecticut and other states.

“Swatting” is the making of a hoax call to any emergency service to elicit an emergency response based on the false report of an ongoing critical incident. Incidents typically produce the deployment of SWAT units, bomb squads, and other police units, as well as the evacuations of schools, businesses and residences.

“All of us in law enforcement are committed to exposing the individuals responsible for these swatting incidents and prosecuting them to the full extent of the law,” stated U.S. Attorney Daly. “These events cause emotional distress for victims and waste the valuable time and resources of our law enforcement community. The felony charges announced today, as well as the ongoing investigation here and abroad, make clear that this is not a game.”

“The idea that ‘swatting’ is some kind of modern-day harmless prank is woefully misplaced,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Ferrick. “It is a serious federal crime and will be investigated and prosecuted as such. The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, along with its law enforcement partners, will continue to identify and pursue those responsible for these dangerous hoaxes and not quit until all are held accountable for their criminal actions.”

As alleged in the criminal complaint, TOLLIS was a member of a group primarily consisting of Microsoft X-Box gamers who referred to themselves as “TCOD” (TeAM CrucifiX or Die). The investigation has revealed that TOLLIS and his TCOD associates have used the Internet communication service Skype to make hoax threats involving bombs, hostage taking, firearms, and mass murder. TOLLIS has been identified as a participant in at least six of these swatting incidents, including a bomb threat to the University of Connecticut (UConn), and bomb threats to schools and other locations in New Jersey, Florida, Texas and Massachusetts.

On April 3, 2014, a bomb threat to UConn’s Admissions Department resulted in a multiple hour, campus-wide lockdown and required the UConn Police and the Connecticut State Police’s Bomb Squad, Emergency Services Unit and SWAT teams to respond.

The ongoing investigation has revealed that TCOD members are also responsible for at least six additional swatting incidents in Connecticut and Massachusetts. It is believed that three members of TCOD reside in the United Kingdom and have made swatting calls from the U.K. The FBI is actively working with authorities in the U.K. to identify these individuals.

The criminal complaint charges TOLLIS with one count of conspiring to engage in a bomb threat hoax, one count of aiding and abetting a bomb threat hoax, and one count of aiding and abetting the malicious conveying of false information regarding an attempt or alleged attempt to kill, injure or intimidate any individual, or to unlawfully damage or destroy any building or other real or personal property by means of an explosive. Each of these charges carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years.

Following his arrest, TOLLIS appeared in Bridgeport federal court and he is currently detained. A detention hearing is scheduled for September 12 at 2:00 p.m.

On September 3, 2014, TOLLIS was arrested on state charges stemming from the UConn swatting incident.

U.S. Attorney Daly stressed that a complaint is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. Charges are only allegations, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This matter is being investigated by the FBI’s New Haven, Newark and Boston field offices, the UConn Police Department, the Connecticut Intelligence Center, the Willimantic Police Department, the Monroe Police Department, the Harvard University Police Department, the Boston University Police Department, the Newton (Mass.) Police Department, the Cambridge (Mass.) Police Department and other state and local law enforcement agencies.

U.S. Attorney Daly also acknowledged the critical assistance being provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey.