January 10, 2020

Federal investigators on Friday arrested a Virginia man accused of being part of a neo-Nazi group that targeted hundreds of people in “swatting” attacks, wherein fake bomb threats, hostage situations and other violent scenarios were phoned in to police as part of a scheme to trick them into visiting potentially deadly force on a target’s address.

In July 2019, KrebsOnSecurity published the story Neo-Nazi Swatters Target Dozens of Journalists, which detailed the activities of a loose-knit group of individuals who had targeted hundreds of individuals for swatting attacks, including federal judges, corporate executives and almost three-dozen journalists (myself included).

A portion of the Doxbin, as it existed in late 2019.

An FBI affidavit unsealed this week identifies one member of the group as John William Kirby Kelley. According to the affidavit, Kelley was instrumental in setting up and maintaining the Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel called “Deadnet” that was used by he and other co-conspirators to plan, carry out and document their swatting attacks.

Prior to his recent expulsion on drug charges, Kelley was a student studying cybersecurity at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. Interestingly, investigators allege it was Kelley’s decision to swat his own school in late November 2018 that got him caught. Using the handle “Carl,” Kelley allegedly explained to fellow Deadnet members he hoped the swatting would get him out of having to go to class.

The FBI says Kelley used virtual private networking (VPN) services to hide his true Internet location and various voice-over-IP (VoIP) services to conduct the swatting calls. In the ODU incident, investigators say Kelley told ODU police that someone was armed with an AR-15 rifle and had placed multiple pipe bombs within the campus buildings.

Later that day, Kelley allegedly called ODU police again but forgot to obscure his real phone number on campus, and quickly apologized for making an accidental phone call. When authorities determined that the voice on the second call matched that from the bomb threat earlier in the day, they visited and interviewed the young man.

Investigators say Kelley admitted to participating in swatting calls previously, and consented to a search of his dorm room, wherein they found two phones, a laptop and various electronic storage devices.

The affidavit says one of the thumb drives included multiple documents that logged statements made on the Deadnet IRC channel, which chronicled “countless examples of swatting activity over an extended period of time.” Those included videos Kelley allegedly recorded of his computer screen which showed live news footage of police responding to swatting attacks while he and other Deadnet members discussed the incidents in real-time on their IRC forum.

The FBI believes Kelley also was linked to a bomb threat in November 2018 at the predominantly African American Alfred Baptist Church in Old Town Alexandria, an incident that led to the church being evacuated during evening worship services while authorities swept the building for explosives.

The FBI affidavit was based in part on interviews with an unnamed co-conspirator, who told investigators that he and the others on Deadnet IRC are white supremacists and sympathetic to the neo-Nazi movement.

“The group’s neo-Nazi ideology is apparent in the racial tones throughout the conversation logs,” the affidavit reads. “Kelley and other co-conspirators are affiliated with or have expressed sympathy for Atomwafen Division,” an extremist group whose members are suspected of having committed multiple murders in the U.S. since 2017.

Investigators say on one of Kelley’s phones they found a photo of he and others in tactical gear holding automatic weapons next to pictures of Atomwaffen recruitment material and the neo-Nazi publication Siege.

As I reported last summer, several Deadnet members maintained a site on the Dark Web called the “Doxbin,” which listed the names, addresses, phone number and often known IP addresses, Social Security numbers, dates of birth and other sensitive information on hundreds of people — and in some cases the personal information of the target’s friends and family. After those indexed on the Doxbin were successfully swatted, a blue gun icon would be added next to the person’s name.

One of the core members of the group on Deadnet — an individual who used the nickname “Chanz,” among others — stated that he was responsible for maintaining SiegeCulture, a white supremacist Web site that glorifies the writings of neo-Nazi James Mason (whose various books call on followers to start a violent race war in the United States).

Deadnet chat logs obtained by KrebsOnSecurity show that another key swatting suspect on Deadnet who used the handle “Zheme” told other IRC members in March 2019 that one of his friends had recently been raided by federal investigators for allegedly having connections to the person responsible for the mass shooting in October 2018 at the Tree of Life Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh.

At one point last year, Zheme also reminded denizens of Deadnet about a court hearing in the murder trial of Sam Woodward, an alleged Atomwaffen member who’s been charged with killing a 19-year-old gay Jewish college student.

As reported by this author last year, Deadnet members targeted dozens of journalists whose writings they considered threatening to their worldviews. Indeed, one of the targets successfully swatted by Deadnet members was Pulitzer prize winning columnist Leonard G. Pitts Jr., whose personal information as listed on the Doxbin was annotated with a blue gun icon and the label “anti-white race/politics writer.”

In another Deadnet chat log seen by this author, Chanz admits to calling in a bomb threat at the UCLA campus following a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos. Chanz bragged that he did it to frame feminists at the school for acts of terrorism.

On a personal note, I sincerely hope this arrest is just the first of many to come for those involved in swatting attacks related to Deadnet and the Doxbin. KrebsOnSecurity has obtained information indicating that several members of my family also have been targeted for harassment and swatting by this group.

Finally, it’s important to note that while many people may assume that murders and mass shootings targeting people because of their race, gender, sexual preference or religion are carried out by so-called “lone wolf” assailants, the swatting videos created and shared by Deadnet members are essentially propaganda that hate groups can use to recruit new members to their cause.

The Washington Post reports that Kelley had his first appearance in federal court in Alexandria, Va. on Friday.

“His public defender did not comment on the allegations but said his client has ‘very limited funds,'” The Post’s courts reporter Rachel Weiner wrote.

The charge against Kelley of conspiracy to make threats carries up to five years in prison. The affidavit in Kelley’s arrest is available here (PDF).

47 thoughts on “Alleged Member of Neo-Nazi Swatting Group Charged

  1. David Heath

    Why is he not charged with attempted murder? Or for ‘successful’ SWATs, actual murder.

    1. ldkedhfj

      Because swatting simply isn’t attempted murder, unless you’re actually trying to murder someone. There’s no way such charge could hold up in court.

      1. SomePerson

        It is though. SWAT members go in expecting to shoot first and ask questions later. Many people have died from being SWATted. It’s absolutely attempted murder.

        Legally, there’s no precedent, which is all the more reason to charge the fuckers with it.

      2. Brian Fiori (AKA The Dean)

        A death caused during the commission of a felony is considered MURDER is still US law. No intent to murder necessary.

  2. Martin Glazet

    Thanks for the article. I hope these people go to jail.

  3. The Sunshine State

    The dark web website doxbin(dot)com has been removing information like social security numbers as of late.

    1. BrianKrebs Post author

      They’re not the same sites. The Doxbin referred to in this story was never on the clear web and has only ever been available if you use Tor.

  4. AJ North

    Thanks for some good news, Brian! Hopefully, this type of intervention will be replicated many, many more times to come.

    1. Juliana

      Sadly, we should expect these behaviors propagate beyond the current rate and even to worsen as children who are not taught core values grow into adults, whose primary or only source of influence is hollywood. As long as hollywood continues to glamourize drugs, guns, theft, murder, and hacker criminal activities, and as long as parents do not teach children core values and their importance, we will observe an accelerating divergence in sub-culture extremes and the consequences will continue to traumatic and personal.

      If you are reading this and you have not printed and posted your core values on the refrigerator, then you are causing this type of behavior.

  5. Nobby Nobbs

    This is some seriously hateful crap, and I hope the justice hammer falls hard on these evil bastages.

    It doesn’t help when some of those in government seem to be providing cover to these miscreants.

    I trust you and yours are staying safe, Brian!

    Thanks, as always, for the excellent reporting!

  6. Ken L

    Brian, thanks for all of your reporting, and I, for one, is glad that this idiot is looking at some serious jail time.

    Anyway, I hope that you and your family will always be safe.

  7. Doug Fodeman

    Very sad to hear, once again, how extreme views drive people to harm others. We’re all grateful that you continue to shine a bright light into these dark corners of society. Hope you and your family are feeling safer.

  8. Jay

    These punks are terrorists and should get hell for all they have done and will continue to do. The punishment will likely amount to a slap on the back given the current government open attitude towards white extremists.

    1. acorn

      Except, “… the current government…” is not the judicial system.

    2. Justin

      What in the world is wrong with you?

      Fools who see/claim to see racism/hate everywhere are just as much a part of this problem. This is the ‘boy who cried wolf,’ phenomenon. Because of liars like you, no one believes those who tell the truth.

      1. Walter Pickman

        Hello, Justin.

        It’s interesting that you showed up in this comment thread merely to defend racist/fascist terrorists by denying the fact that racism is on the rise even as white supremacists are forming global terrorist networks, such as Atomwaffen, The Base, and the Feuerkrieg Division. It’s also interesting that you called Jay a liar for referring to the terrorist featured in this article and his terrorist friends as terrorists for engaging in obviously terroristic behavior. While I certainly don’t expect intelligent behavior from racists, fascists, or the halfwits that carry water for them, what exactly was your goal here, besides desperately trying to distract attention from the currently growing threat of neo-Nazi terrorism?

  9. James Schumaker

    Just read the PDF. Thank God the FBI and USSS are out there to deal with these people. They seem to speak their own drug-addled illiterate language. Just who taught them in grade school? Perhaps Old Dominion needs to review its admission standards.

    These kinds of people are all moral and intellectual weaklings and will probably rat each other out at the earliest opportunity. One hopes they will all have an excellent adventure in prison.

    1. Dave

      Old Dominion has an acceptance rate of 87%. In other words, if you can breathe you are in.

      1. TimH

        Wow. 13% of the applicants are dead?

        On another note, let’s all be grateful that John William Kirby Kelley has clearly never taken in the advice given by Prof. James Joseph Duane…

      2. Readership1

        That’s a moronic assumption, Dave. People who don’t meet the criteria don’t apply. That speaks to a marketing process that seeks better applicants over a large volume of application fees.

        Contrast that with some schools that rake in millions off fees and low standards, knowing most applicants won’t attend.

  10. Daniel

    If the fool didnt want to go to class then just dont go! Thats the reason you are in College is to be trained in something for crying out loud.

  11. Donna

    I’ve just read the affidavit; “stunned” doesn’t begin to cover my reaction. I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around the sheer magnitude of what these bad actors are doing. And a conviction brings “up to” 5 years in prison?? I hope this is just the beginning of a long list of arrests.

    Thank you for another excellent in-depth article, Brian. btw, I loved seeing you cited as a source by the WaPo reporter. Nice!

  12. SaveString

    And again, reading further: “Investigators say on one of Kelley’s phones they found a photo of he and others in tactical gear …”
    At least there’s consistency; but it’s a consistent error. Actually they found a photo of him and others. > sigh < Not that it matters in the overall scope of things these days. Language usage is deteriorating along with so much else in our world. I grieve for all of it.

    1. Grammar Nanny

      I noticed those two identical grammatical errors, too. Reading them physically hurt me, like a stab to my brain. I am glad you said something. I never saw Brian make such errors before, so I wondered if he started using a proofreader or editor who does not know basic English.

      1. SaveString

        Great image, a stab to the brain! Glad I’m not the only one these things bother.

      2. SaveString

        Great image, stab to the brain! Glad I’m not the only one bothered by these things. Yes, Brian is usually quite literate.

      3. Jonathan Marcus

        Out of an article about Nazi’s a grammar glitch is what you found distressing? I guess it takes all kinds…

        If you are interested in correcting the error (vs. noting that you caught the error) an email to Mr. Krebs might be a better approach?

        1. Pedante's Inferno

          “Out of an article about Nazi’s a grammar glitch is what you found distressing?”

          If you think nazi grammar is bad you should see their grandpa.

          (ducks a flying potted plant)

    2. SaveString

      Oops — My comment here actually followed my previously submitted comment on the same ungrammatical construction I had just read in an earlier paragraph here, “According to the affidavit, Kelley was instrumental in setting up and maintaining the Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel called “Deadnet” that was used by he and other co-conspirators …” wherein I lamented Brian’s apparently having fallen into the pit of one of the ever-expanding creeping disservices to our language, exchanging object of the preposition for subjective form of the pronoun (here, “used by he …”) (and often the opposite exchange, now heard ever more frequently, as in “Me and Soandso went shopping for a good reference book on grammar”). With apologies for off-topic persnicketyness and appreciation nevertheless for all of Brian’s truly helpful advice and alerts. But my initial comment didn’t appear (yet), so the followup above won’t make sense. (I expressed it better before too.) Oh well.

      1. Kenny Blankenship

        Lol!!! This are thee absolutely most pretentious comment I’ve ever literilly red. If Brian posteds a articles about Grammar News. feel free two commenting there: Your missing the hole point. of. the. article.

        Figured I’d give you a fun paragraph to correct as it seems you have nothing better to do. Enjoy!

  13. Readership1

    Was the reporting by the Washington Post (cited in the final paragraphs) independently verified? If not, why not?

    Nothing in that rag should ever be taken at face value, even easily checked information.

    1. Tammy

      What part are you wanting verified, Readership1? The only facts I saw in Brian’s article that reference the Washington Post and that aren’t also contained in the 29-page FBI affidavit Brian linked to are the fact that Kelley made a court appearance, and the fact that his public defender said he didn’t have a lot of money. Do you have a reason to believe he didn’t appear in court, or that his public defender didn’t say he didn’t have a lot of money? Other than that, there’s nothing here that I can see that would require you to trust the Post.

  14. Investigator

    The “Chanz” mentioned in this article is very likely also the “Chanz” mentioned in this post by the Counter Extremism Project about YouTube’s failure to handle Atomwaffen Division content: https://www.counterextremism.com/press/extremist-content-online-atomwaffen-division-reuploads-itself-youtube and this press release about how it was only after the post that YouTube took it down: https://www.counterextremism.com/press/youtube-removes-neo-nazi-content-after-cep-releases-online-findings.

  15. As seen on Tee Vee

    Great job as always Brian.

    Why hasn’t anyone given you a TV show yet? This is gold.

  16. Thank you, Brian

    I thank Brian Krebs for his excellent reporting on this issue. I’m one of the people on their list of people they want to swat or kill or harass. I think Brian’s reporting helped lead to an eventual arrest, as well as to the dismantling of parts of the group’s criminal activities. In other words, Brian helped protect me personally from crimes. Thank you, Mr. Krebs, for your hard work and dedication! The FBI affidavit is mind-boggling, especially the long list of police departments nationwide that have allegedly received swatting calls from this group.

  17. Kenny Blankenship

    I’ve never understood that mentality. “You’re not the same race as me, I hate you” or “I disagree with your views, I hate you”. What sense does that make? These people have true hatred in their hearts just because someone is a different race or has a different set of views. That’s absolutely insane to me. Makes you wonder what their upbringing was like. All this evil and hatred in the world really makes me look forward to the Second Coming of Christ.

  18. Richard Prince

    Just a heads up. The Alfred Street Baptist Church was not evacuated that Saturday night. I was inside and the pastor and other church leaders were resourceful in keeping everyone *inside* so the police could do their work *outside”.

    This message refers to this paragraph: “The FBI believes Kelley also was linked to a bomb threat in November 2018 at the predominantly African American Alfred Baptist Church in Old Town Alexandria, an incident that led to the church being evacuated during evening worship services while authorities swept the building for explosives. . . .”

  19. Judy Kristensen

    My husband and I were victims of a public swatting in Sept 2019- we have some more information you might be interested in. I read the entire PDF and don’t see any mention of our case, but too many similarities to call it a coincidence.

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