Police arrested a 50-year-old Bucks County woman March 10 for sending her teen daughter’s cheerleading coaches fake photos and videos depicting her rivals naked, drinking, or smoking, to try to get them kicked off the squad, according to media reports.
Raffaela Spone, of Chalfont, was charged with two misdemeanors, Hilltown Township Police officers said. Spone is facing three counts of cyber harassment of a child and three counts of harassment.
An investigation last year led officers to discover that Spone had sent harassing text messages directly to the teenagers as well, police said. As the investigation continued, more teenagers came forward, who were all part of a traveling cheerleading group — Victory Vipers — based in the Doylestown area.
“Spone last year created the doctored images of at least three members,” according to the affidavit. There were no indications that Spone’s daughter knew what her mother was doing.
The teenagers told officers Spone sent them “manipulated images,” and in an anonymous message, said that Spone “urged them to kill themselves,” Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Hilltown police were contacted by one of the teenager’s parents in July, and then two more families came forward with a similar account. They told officers they and their coaches received text messages that depicted them naked, drinking, and smoking a vape, according to the Philly Inquirer.
Some of the teenagers were “sent photos of themselves in bikinis, with accompanying text saying the subjects were “drinking at the shore,” court records show.
The videos were analyzed, and detectives were able to determine they were “deepfakes” — digitally altered but realistic-looking images — created by mapping the girls’ social media photos onto other images, the Philly Inquirer reported.
Officers were able to execute multiple search warrants that allowed them to trace the text messages back to Spone’s IP address and then her cell phone, police said.
George Ratel told the Philly Inquirer “he believes the harassment was triggered after he and his wife told his daughter to stop hanging out with Spone’s daughter, due to concerns over the girl’s behavior.”
“I don’t know what would push her to this point,” Ratel said. “As a dad I was pretty upset about it. It’s an image put out there of my daughter that is simply not true.”
Spone was released on the condition that she appear at a preliminary hearing on March 30.
Read more from PennLive