FBI arrests California minor for role in synagogue swatting ring


(JTA) — The FBI announced the arrest of a minor who will be charged for two online swatting hoaxes perpetrated against synagogues in Orange County, California.

The suspect, whose name was not released because they are a minor, was arrested Tuesday morning by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, in partnership with local law enforcement in Southern California and New York, as well as the Anti-Defamation League. The individual will be charged at the state level by the Orange Country District Attorney for swatting attempts at synagogues in Tustin and Fullerton, California.

The suspect is believed to be a member of a swatting ring that carried out false bomb threats and swatting attempts at a number of Jewish institutions, including at least 25 synagogues in 13 states during July and August, according to the FBI.

The wave of attacks unnerved Jewish communities around the country over the summer and led to beefed-up security at many synagogues for the High Holidays. Several communities reported interruptions during Rosh Hashanah.

Temple Beth Tikvah, a Reform congregation in Fullerton, evacuated during Shabbat services in August after receiving an anonymous phoned-in bomb threat. The synagogue’s Facebook livestream captured the moment that the threat made its way to the prayer leaders, as the rabbi interrupts the cantor and says, “I am afraid that we need to stop and leave the building right now.”

The FBI said it had identified the individual believed to have created the online server that hosted the alleged swatting network. The server has been taken offline, but it had included members who had expressed extremist views, including “the glorification of highly publicized mass killers,” according to the FBI.

A 33-year-old man in Peru was arrested in September in connection with recent bomb threats, including some of those made against synagogues Rosh Hashanah. And in Canton, Ohio, a 13-year-old is facing trial this week for allegedly planning a mass shooting at a synagogue.

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