September 4, 2022

A 21-year-old New Jersey man has been arrested and charged with stalking in connection with a federal investigation into groups of cybercriminals who are settling scores by hiring people to carry out physical attacks on their rivals. Prosecutors say the defendant recently participated in several of these schemes — including firing a handgun into a Pennsylvania home and torching a residence in another part of the state with a Molotov Cocktail.

Patrick McGovern-Allen of Egg Harbor Township, N.J. was arrested on Aug. 12 on a warrant from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. An FBI complaint alleges McGovern-Allen was part of a group of co-conspirators who are at the forefront of a dangerous escalation in coercion and intimidation tactics increasingly used by competing cybercriminal groups.

Prosecutors say that around 2 a.m. on Jan 2, 2022, McGovern-Allen and an unidentified co-conspirator fired multiple handgun rounds into a residence in West Chester, Pa. Fortunately, none of the residents inside the home at the time were injured. But prosecutors say the assailants actually recorded video of the attack as “proof” that the shooting had been carried out.

A copy of that video was obtained by KrebsOnSecurity. According to investigators, McGovern-Allen was one of the shooters, who yelled “Justin Active was here” as they haphazardly fired at least eight rounds into the lower story of the West Chester residence.

On Dec. 18, 2021, police in Abington Township, Pa., responded to reports of a house fire from homeowners who said it sounded like something was thrown at their residence just prior to the fire.

Weeks later, on the day of the shooting in West Chester, a detective with the Westtown East Goshen Police Department contacted the Abington police and shared another video that was circulating on several online message boards that appeared to show two individuals setting fire to the Abington Township residence. The criminal complaint said the two police officers agreed the same suspect was present in both videos.

A copy of that video also was obtained by KrebsOnSecurity, and it shows at least two individuals smashing a window, then lighting a rag-soaked Mad Dog 20/20 grape wine bottle and hurling it at the side of the home [Update: My apologies for the file download link, but YouTube just deleted both of the videos included in this story — for allegedly violating their community standards].

“The Molotov cocktail caused the immediate surrounding area to ignite, including the siding of the house, grass, and the wooden chair,” the government’s complaint against McGovern-Allen states. “The two suspects then fled on foot toward the street and begin yelling something when the video stops.”

The government mentions the victims only by their initials — “K.M.” in the shooting and “A.R.” in the firebombing — but said both had been the target of previous harassment by rival cybercriminal groups that included swatting attacks, wherein the perpetrators spoof a distress call to the police about a hostage situation, suicide or bomb threat with the goal of sending a heavily-armed police response to a targeted address.

A number of previous swatting incidents have turned deadly. But these more “hands-on” and first person attacks are becoming increasingly common within certain cybercriminal communities, particularly those engaged in SIM swapping, a crime in which identity thieves hijack a target’s mobile phone number and use that to wrest control over the victim’s various online accounts and identities.

The complaint mentions a handle and user ID allegedly used by McGovern-Allen’s online persona “Tongue” on the Discord chat service, (user: “Tongue#0001”).

“In the chats, [Tongue] tells other Discord users that he was the person who shot K.M.’s house and that he was willing to commit firebombings using Molotov Cocktails,” the complaint alleges. “For example, in one Discord chat from March 2022, [the defendant] states ‘if you need anything done for $ lmk [“let me know”]/I did a shooting/Molotov/but I can also do things for ur entertainment.”

KrebsOnsecurity reviewed hundreds of chat records tied to this Tongue alias, and it appears both attacks were motivated by a desire to get back at a rival cybercriminal by attacking the female friends of that rival.

Recall that the shooters in the West Chester, Pa. incident shouted “Justin Active was here.” Justin Active is the nickname of an individual who is just as active in the same cybercriminal channels, but who has vehemently denied knowledge of or participation in the shooting. Justin Active said on Telegram that the person targeted in the shooting was his ex-girlfriend, and that the firebombing targeted another friend of his.

Justin Active has claimed for months that McGovern-Allen was responsible for both attacks, saying they were intended as an intimidation tactic against him. “DO THE PATRICK MCGOVERN ALLEN RAID DANCE!,” Justin Active’s alias “Nutcase68” shouted on Telegram on Aug. 12, the same day McGovern-Allen was arrested by authorities.

Justin Active’s version of events seems to be supported by a reference in the criminal complaint to an April 2, 2022 chat in which Tongue explained the reason for the shooting.

“The video/is [K]’s house/getting shit/shot/justin active/ was her current bf/ the reason it happened,” Tongue explained. “So that’s why Justin active was there.”

The Telegram chat channels that Justin Active and Tongue both frequented have hundreds to thousands of members each, and some of the more interesting solicitations on these communities are job offers for in-person assignments and tasks that can be found if one searches for posts titled, “If you live near,” or “IRL job” — short for “in real life” job.

A number of these classified ads are in service of performing “brickings,” where someone is hired to visit a specific address and toss a brick through the target’s window.

“If you live near Edmonton Canada dm me need someone bricked,” reads on Telegram message on May 31, 2022.

“If you live near [address redacted] Lakewood, CA, dm [redacted] Paying 3k to slash the tires,” reads another help wanted ad in the same channel on Feb. 24, 2022. “If you live near here and can brick them, dm [address omitted] Richland, WA,” reads another from that same day.

McGovern-Allen was in the news not long ago. According to a Sept. 2020 story from The Press of Atlantic City, a then 19-year-old Patrick McGovern Allen was injured after driving into a building and forcing residents from their home.

“Police found a 2007 Lexus, driven by Patrick McGovern-Allen, 19, that had lost control and left the road, crashing into the eastern end of the 1600 building,” the story recounted. “The car was driven through the steps that provide access to the second-floor apartments, destroying them, and also caused damage to the outer wall.”

A search on the Inmate Locator of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons website shows that McGovern-Allen remains in federal custody at a detention facility in Philadelphia. He’s currently represented by a public defender who has not responded to requests for comment.

A copy of the criminal complaint against McGovern-Allen is available here (PDF).


Many of the individuals involved in paying others to commit these physical attacks are also frequent participants in several Telegram channels focused singularly on SIM swapping activity. As a result, the vast majority of the people being targeted for brickings and other real-life physical assaults tend to be other cybercriminals involved in SIM swapping crimes (or individuals on the periphery of that scene).

There are dozens of SIM swappers who are now teenage or 20-something millionaires, by virtue of having stolen vast sums of cryptocurrencies from SIM swapping victims. And now many of these same individuals are finding that communities like Telegram can be leveraged to hire physical harassment and intimidation of their rivals and competitors.

The primary barrier to hiring someone to brick a home or slash some tires seems to be the costs involved: A number of solicitations for these services advertised payment of $3,000 or more upon proof of successful completion, which usually involves recording the attack and hiring a getaway driver in the town where the crime is to take place (calling a cab or hailing an Uber from the scene of a bricking isn’t the brightest idea).

My fear is these violence-as-a-service offerings will at some point migrate outside of the SIM swapping communities. This is precisely what happened with swatting, which for years was a crime perpetrated almost exclusively against online gamers and people streaming their games online. These days, swatting attacks are commonly used by SIM swapping groups as a way to harass and extort regular Internet users into giving up prized social media account names that can be resold for thousands of dollars.

57 thoughts on “Violence-as-a-Service: Brickings, Firebombings & Shootings for Hire

    1. Mr. Morningstar

      …with the purchase of a convicted criminal of equal or greater value.

  1. Ian

    Hiring people to “brick” or shoot someone’s house sure seems like a good way to get the feds attention

  2. Michelle Gomez

    Now that explains why there’s always a shooting when congress wants to ban guns further

    1. gtodon

      Learn English. If guns were truly “banned,” it would not be possible to “ban guns further.” The word you probably want is “limit” or “restrict,” but even in that case, there are very few federal limits on gun ownership. Most such limits are at the state or city level.

  3. Dritan Kapllani Jr.

    I dropped out of the 9th grade to become a call slave.

  4. Bob Brown

    YouTube has removed one of the videos. Might want to edit the story or host the video elsewhere.

  5. Luqman Gouled

    Im the original com driller top scorer top striker M1 my bro never got chinged he never begged for his life

  6. darwin love the kids

    these fellas missed their true calling in tide pod / cinnamon / wall socket challenges
    hope prison food is your jam dawg – epic prank cell block status includes free tuneups

  7. targhitta

    krebs u baldheaded aaahh dude stop talkin sweet bout my boy

  8. seth b

    arnout lin(ethan hooley) & ryan stenwick were the culprits who paid him to do it.

  9. Catwhisperer

    D4CaaS (Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap as a Service) is nothing new, with organizations going back centuries that specialized in that product. The Internet and cryptocurrency, however, gives the idea another dimension that harkens back to the time of the Nizari. These guys were rank amatures, with bad opsec. I’m sure that is not always the case. All an onion link away…

  10. Tech wannabe

    Excuse my ignorance, but how does “Swatting” keep happening? Don’t the cops even think twice? Or don’t they care?

    1. .

      partially ignorance, although a lot of swatting calls are actually pretty close to what you would also hear from someone trying to commit suicide by cop. it’s pretty wacky.

      1. Tech wannabe

        Cops just shooting someone who doesn’t have a clue what’s going on is wacky too!

  11. Tijhd

    Harming / killing someone because of some ‘uncontrollable’ urge or rage is horrible enough, but doing so because they get paid for it… is one reason I can still support the death penalty.

    1. mealy

      “The death penalty” is the 10x more expensive version of life in prison in most places.
      Prison for life is plenty bad enough and serves the function.

      1. Capital

        It’s a bit misleading to say the death penalty is more expensive than life imprisonment.
        It’s not the penalty that’s more expensive it’s the process.

        Life imprisonment may be 20 to 40 years of incarceration until death by natural causes.
        But a death sentence would still incur decades of appeals.
        A life sentence that is not appealed will simply have no additional legal fees.
        But the mandatory appeals process for a death sentence requires lawyers getting paid for decades.

        It’s more accurate to say that the death penalty is more like an expensive version of a life sentence. As lawyers spend years or decades trying to appeal.

        That is why the death penalty has become so expensive more recently compared to before 1980. So people opposed to the death sentence shouldn’t even bother to argue the cost, because those in favor simply have an easy answer.

        1. mealy

          Requisite procedures and legal appeals are fully baked into that not-misleading-at-all statement of accurate fact, it’s N multiples more expensive to execute than it is to imprison without possibility of parole – for all of the reasons that is true including our inescapable non-optional system of laws. Obviously.

          1. Carlton

            Of all the countries with capital punishment, why is the US the exception?
            10 times the cost? And nearly all of that going to the lawyers.
            Prisoners don’t even have a right to refuse appeal. They have no right to suicide either.
            20 years on death row solitary confinement is torture, legalized torture. Would be more humane to execute them quickly.

            1. mealy

              10 times was a rough figure admittedly.
              More in some cases, less in some too.

              1. mealy

                Also I agree with you that life in prison is inhumane.
                That is the only alternative to a still greater inhumanity,
                the abuse of which is storied and profoundly historic.
                It’s all bad. We could address all of this at any time, if.
                Instead, we’re giving Trump extra hours on free Earth,
                because legal jurisprudence. Such is justice in reality.
                A vague concept with every which way to go slippery.

            2. Santa

              Humane? the purpose of punishment isn’t to be humane, it’s to punish.
              Death is to easy, punishment should be suffering every day wishing for death.
              Then we are getting our moneys worth. All of these scum should live every moment in jail wishing for death. Every torture possible. Otherwise they sit in a room, fed with a bed, with AC and TV – better than most people – not right, more like a reward. Every pain possible should be theirs.

              1. mealy

                Wondered what John Woo was up to.
                Torture nutjobs deserve their own words.

          2. Paul W

            20 years of mandatory appeals is not baked into the law. It was a judgment by the Supreme Court in the 1970s. The same laws could easily be interpreted differently today.

            1. mealy

              1970’s rulings are “baked into the law” until the latest SCOTUS.
              RIP stare.

      2. Joseph Richardson

        Wouldn’t be more expensive if they just executed them the morning after sentencing. We make it more expensive because we use fancy drugs, and we make it ineffectual by delaying it ~20 years.

        1. Paul W

          The fancy drug costs are inflated, but don’t even crack the top 10. You nailed it though. The 20 year delay is the real cost. All the same costs of a life sentence, but special facilities and solitary confinement, then add endless appeals.
          It’s the lawyers who profit

          1. mealy

            It’s the lawyers who are the cost more than not, but that is missing the point that those lawyers are necessary in our system of laws and appeals are constitutionally unavoidable, unless you have some personal redress of the legal system in mind. Lots of otherwise well-meaning laymen do, the point is it’s not reality and the complaint goes nowhere to die.
            The alternative is some major overhaul of our legal system.
            Trump’s legacy perhaps, but until then, still bullsh!t.

      3. no kizzy

        the death penalty is less expensive in terms of not what the prisoners need and consume (even though i think it still must be cheaper) but the real estate that they take up causing requires prison expansion which is very expensive.

        it would be cheaper if we just took the old dogs out to the back and put a bullet in their head; that is what i advocate for as a tax payer.

    2. Krystin

      These videos don’t show any proof of pat doing anything… That voice is 100% not his… In neither one of this videos show any evidence that is was Patrick.. FACTS!!! Nor so they show that anyone was harmed .. Nor was the anyone being killed.. not what time in that article did say Pat was out to harm somebody or kill somebody. You should get the death penalty for being stupid

  12. Carlton

    Of all the countries with capital punishment, why is the US the exception?
    10 times the cost? And nearly all of that going to the lawyers.
    Prisoners don’t even have a right to refuse appeal. They have no right to suicide either.
    20 years on death row solitary confinement is torture, legalized torture. Would be more humane to execute them quickly.

  13. Oneill

    Dear Mr Krebs… this blew my mind as well when I first learned it, but MD 20/20 actually stands for Mogen David and Mad Dog is entirely slang.

  14. Santa

    Kids with no clue to life, just abuse others because they are missing a soul/spirit/life themselves. Almost funny to watch them expose themselves with their petty emotional tantrums.

  15. SkunkWerks

    So, if one of these guys gets sent to prison, do we get to call i a “VaaSectomy”?

  16. Tbonewuzon

    Who wants to place bets recruiters are going to be asking for 10 years of VaaS experience when it’s only been out for a few months???

    I’ll be here all night folks….

  17. Tbonewuzon

    Who wants to be that recruiters will now be asking for 10 years of VaaS experience when it’s only been out a few months???

    I’ll be here all night folks….

  18. bob

    i used to do refunding and all that and used to be in these discord servers but how do i get in these sim swapping tele servers?

  19. Krystin mcgovern

    These videos don’t show any proof of pat doing anything… That voice is 100% not his… In neither one of this videos show any evidence that is was Patrick.. FACTS!!!

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