Skip to main content

Texas man sent to prison for plaguing MN city with bomb hoaxes, 'swatting' calls

  • Author:
  • Updated:
    Original:

A 19-year-old Texas man was sentenced to more than three years in prison over a series of fake bomb threats and "swatting" phone calls made to a high school in Minnesota.

U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger announced Zachary Lee Morgenstern, from the Houston area, was sentenced Tuesday to 41 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. He was arrested and charged following an FBI investigation.

In August, Morgenstern pleaded guilty to threatening people and organizations in the Marshall area over a period of eight months, ending in May of this year. According to court documents, he concealed his identity using anonymized email addresses, Twitter accounts and Internet-based phone accounts to do the following:

  • Make threats to kill a police officer and her family.
  • Tell police he had placed a bomb around Marshall High School that would detonate in an hour, prompting an evacuation.
  • Make another call to police saying he planned to "shoot up" the school.
  • Carry out "swatting" attacks – making hoax phone calls to law enforcement pretending a violent crime is in progress to elicit an armed, preferably SWAT, response.
  • In one swatting attack on Oct. 7, 2014, call Marshall Police claiming to have taken a father and son hostage, and that he had shot one of them in the kneecap. He threatened to kill both unless a half-million dollar ransom was paid.
  • Identify himself to police as a 13-year-old boy who claimed two men had broken into his apartment and shot his mother in the leg, and they were holding his mother and sister hostage while he hid in a closet.

Ars Technica reports during a phone call Morgenstern made to Marshall High School's public resources officer after months of harassment, he said it was "not possible" for him to be caught because "you can't catch a hacker."

"He wrought emotional havoc and caused the needless expenditure of public funds to respond to his destructive emails, tweets, and phone calls," Assistant United States Attorney Timothy C. Rank said. "Mr. Morgenstern committed his crimes in part because he thought he would not get caught."

"It's good to have closure in this matter so we can move on from the disruption in our city and school district caused by Mr. Morgenstern's actions," said Marshall Police Chief Rob Yant.

Morgenstern was convicted on one count of making threats to kill. 

Next Up

Jason Hackett

New face joining KARE 11's 'Sunrise' morning show

Jason Hackett will be joining Alicia Lewis and Guy Brown on KARE 11's morning show.

Screen Shot 2022-11-30 at 4.04.09 PM

Armed robbery suspect sought in two south metro investigations

The incidents took place at credit unions in Savage and Apple Valley.

image

Former Twin Cities plastic surgeon charged with sex crimes

Christopher Kovanda is accused of inappropriately touching woman under the guise of providing medical care.

Screen Shot 2022-11-15 at 4.23.26 PM

Minnesota man accused of murder in Chicago is arrested in Alabama

A 26-year-old man from a small town on the Iowa border is accused of murdering a Greyhound bus employee.

DougKeddieShakopeeSchools

Support for Shakopee Public Schools employee diagnosed with cancer

The media specialist has been transitioned to hospice care recently.

snow

Big November snowstorms uncommon in MN, but snowfall is increasing

This week's 8.4 inches at MSP Airport was one of the biggest November storms in the Twin Cities since 1991.

MNASecondStrike

Minnesota nurses take vote on whether to hold second strike

The results will be determined Wednesday night.

unsplash medical marijuana

OCD, irritable bowel syndrome added to MN's medical marijuana list

They are the two latest qualifying medical conditions for Minnesota's marijuana program.

Screen Shot 2022-11-30 at 9.27.45 AM

Fundraiser created for family-owned Cô Tu' Oriental Cuisine after shooting

Support from the community will go towards medical expenses and overhead costs for the restaurant.

Erica Shameka Roberts

Police: Minnesota murder suspect arrested in Texas

Erica Roberts has been on the run since March.

JackknifedSemisI35

Jackknifed semis close I-35 northbound near Faribault

There are icy conditions across Minnesota

Related