Hackers Charged With Bomb Threats Against LAX, Schools

(CN) – On Tuesday, the FBI arrested a young hacker on charges of making violent threats against the Los Angeles International Airport and hundreds of schools in the U.S. and the U.K.

According to federal authorities, 20-year-old Timothy Dalton Vaughn is a member of the Apophis Squad, a collective of hackers and swatters intent on using the internet to cause chaos.

A “swatter” is someone who prank calls emergency services.

The 26-page federal indictment, filed Feb. 8 and unsealed today, accuses Vaughn and his co-defendant, 19-year-old George Duke-Cohan, of conspiring to disrupt interstate commerce, making false bomb threats, and intentionally damaging a computer.

“Overt acts” of the conspiracy included Duke-Cohan calling the Omaha, Nebraska, FBI office with anthrax and ebola threats, then telling the phone dispatcher he would rape and kill his wife, according to the indictment. The indictment also accuses the pair of crashing the vehicle stunt website Hoonigan.com, defacing the website of Columbian university Colegio Nueva Granada with images of Hitler, and spoofing a server from online game Minecraft to send bomb threats to hundreds of schools in the U.K.

The pair also spoofed the mayor of London’s email to send threats about rocket-propelled grenades planted under school buses and land mines in school sports fields set to detonate unless school was cancelled, claiming they were “not happy” with the way that schools “let these boys and girls dress and not worship Alah the God,” according to the indictment.  The message said the group had planted students in the school with guns and orders to shoot, closing with an admonition to, “Follow the rules or be killed.”

Vaughn, whose online handles include “WantedbyFeds” and “Hackers_R_Us,” bragged on internet forums about Apophis Squad targeting over 2,000 schools with threats of violence, prosecutors say.

The crimes cited in the indictment reportedly occurred between January and August 2018.

Duke-Cohan, from Hertfordshire in the U.K., is currently serving a prison sentence in his home country for a hoax threat against an airliner. He faces an additional 65 years in prison if convicted of all nine counts against him in the criminal indictment.

Vaughn, who is from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, made his first court appearance in the Middle District of North Carolina today. If convicted of all 11 charges in the indictment, he faces up to 80 years in prison.

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