RIVERSIDE (CBSLA.com) — Authorities have arrested a 16-year-old Canadian boy they say made a series of bogus bomb threats, reports of hostage situations and “swatting” incidents around the Southland and around North America.
An investigation by the Ottawa Police Department, the FBI, the Riverside Police Department and other law enforcement agencies culminated in the youth’s arrest Thursday.
The suspect’s name was not released due to his age.
According to Canadian authorities, the teenager is facing about 60 criminal charges, including public mischief, uttering death threats and conveying false information with the intent to alarm.
Swatting describes criminal activity by an individual or group who knowingly provide false information to police suggesting that a threat exists at a particular location — usually a private home or a public school — so that police respond with tactical units or SWAT teams, hence the term.
FBI Los Angeles Field Office spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said, “Making false threats drains law enforcement resources and can cause significant distress or physical injury to first responders or victims.”
A variety of celebrities were the victims of swatting pranks in the past few years including Justin Bieber, the Kardashians, Selena Gomez, Rihanna, Tom Cruise and Ashton Kutcher, to just name a few.
Occasions when the boy allegedly phoned in bogus threats to Riverside schools were not immediately clear. It is also not known what led officials to first link the crimes around the Southland to Canada.
“The nature of the false threats received by the schools varied,” Eimiller said. “In some cases, police were falsely warned of explosives, hostage-taking and the threat of an active shooter.”
Other places in the U.S. allegedly targeted by the teen include Stockton, Calif., Greenwich, Conn., Melbourne, Fla., Orlando, Fla., Tampa, Fla. and Watervliet, N.Y., according to the FBI.