Federal prosecutors say a 21-year-old man pleaded guilty Monday to sending false shooting and bomb threats to schools in the U.S. and Britain, including numerous in Southern California.
The Department of Justice says Timothy Vaughn of Winston-Salem, North Carolina was a member of the Apophis Squad, a collective of hackers intent on using the internet to sow chaos.
Prosecutors say Vaughn, who used the online handle “WantedbyFeds,” entered guilty pleas Monday to multiple counts including conspiring to make threats and possession of child pornography.
Vaughn admitted Monday to helping target at least 86 school districts with emailed threats, including claims of imminent bomb detonations and explosives being placed under school buses and on sports fields, officials said.
Authorities did not specify which school campuses were involved, but said many of them were in Southern California.
The defendant also admitted to demanding 1.5 billion bitcoin — then worth about $20,000 — before launching a DDoS attack on the website of a Long Beach motorsport company, hoonigan.com.
A co-defendant, 20-year-old George Duke-Cohan of Hertfordshire, United Kingdom, is currently serving a prison sentence in Britain for a hoax threat targeting an airliner.
The indictment alleged the Apophis Squad engaged in “swatting,” in which a phony report is made to trigger deployment of emergency response teams.