Wethersfield Man Sentenced to Prison Term for Involvement in Multiple Swatting Incidents
Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that MATTHEW TOLLIS, 22, of Wethersfield, was sentenced today by Chief U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall in New Haven to 12 months and one day of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, for participating in a series of “swatting” incidents that occurred in Connecticut and other states in 2014. Judge Hall also ordered TOLLIS to perform 300 hours of community service.
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.
“Swatting is not a schoolboy prank, it’s a federal crime,” said U.S. Attorney Daly. “These hoaxes have expended critical law enforcement resources and caused severe emotional distress for thousands of victims,” stated U.S. Attorney Daly. “It is our hope that this prosecution and the knowledge that this defendant will serve time in prison and live with a felony conviction for the remainder of his life will deter others from engaging in this immature, dangerous and criminal behavior.”
According to court documents and statements made in court, TOLLIS was a member of a group primarily consisting of Microsoft X-Box gamers who referred to themselves as “TCOD” (TeAM CrucifiX or Die). TOLLIS and his TCOD associates used the Internet communication service Skype to make hoax threats involving bombs, hostage taking, firearms, and mass murder. TOLLIS was identified as a participant in at least six of these swatting incidents, including a bomb threat to the UConn’s Admissions Department on April 3, 2014. This hoax call resulted in a three-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.
TOLLIS also participated in TCOD swatting calls to the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, Boston University, two high schools in New Jersey and a high school in Texas. TOLLIS has admitted that he identified potential institutions, including UConn and Boston University, for TCOD members to make the threatening calls, and gathered telephone numbers and other information about the targeted institutions.
The investigation revealed that one of the founders of TCOD, a resident of Scotland who has identified himself as “Verified,” was responsible for at least five additional swatting incidents in Connecticut and Massachusetts in 2014. Other members of TCOD also reside in the U.K., and the FBI continues to coordinate its investigation with law enforcement authorities in the U.K.
TOLLIS was arrested on September 3, 2014, on state charges stemming from the UConn swatting incident, and he was arrested on a federal criminal complaint on September 10, 2014. On June 23, 2015, he waived his right to indictment and pleaded guilty to conspiring to engage in the malicious conveying of false information, namely a bomb threat hoax.
TOLLIS, who has been released on bond since shortly after his arrest, was ordered to report to prison on November 5, 2015.
This matter has been 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.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen B. Reynolds.