The mom is accused of sending altered pictures of the girls smoking and drinking
A Pennsylvania mother is being accused of digitally manipulating photos, videos, and sending harassing text messages over the course of last summer of her teenage daughter’s cheerleading rivals, the Victory Vipers. She is also allegedly sent similar content to their parents and the owners of the gym where they practiced.
Raffaela Spone is charged with three misdemeanor counts of cyber harassment of a child and three counts of harassment for using deep fake technology to show the girls nude, drinking alcohol, vaping, and telling one of the girls she should die by suicide.
Deepfake technology allows people to use a still image and map it to an existing video or photo to alter the appearance of someone. “This technology is not only very prevalent, but easy to use,” Matt Weintraub, the Bucks County district attorney, told The New York Times. “This is something your neighbor down the street can use, and that’s very scary.”
“She denies what they are accusing her of doing,” Spone’s defense attorney Robert Birch told PEOPLE. “We intend to see the evidence and put on testimony and cross examine witnesses. I am going to aggressively defend this,” noting that his client and her daughter are now receiving death threats.
Police were notified about the situation after the mother of one of the teens contacted the Hilltown Township Police Department alleging her daughter was being harassed. “She stated that her daughter has been receiving both phone calls and text messages from a blocked or unknown number with many of the texts and voice messages saying, ‘You should kill yourself,'” a police criminal complaint said. “The altered video showed [the teen] vaping which could have resulted in her being dismissed from the cheer team.”
In a strange case, a mom not only bullied cheerleaders, she altered images to make the girls seem to be nude. As @hinduja reminds us here, whenever a student appears in a compromising photo, educators should question whether it's a "deepfake." https://t.co/M5vnts9JEo
— Phyllis Fagell, LCPC (@Pfagell) March 16, 2021
Two more mothers then came forward to report their daughters were also allegedly being harassed. The second parent received messages that showed her daughter “was drinking at the shore, smokes, pot, and uses ‘attentionwhOre69’ as a screen name,'” the complaint read.
A Pennsylvania woman created "deepfake" videos of her daughter's cheerleading rivals, depicting them naked drinking and smoking
And then she sent them to her daughter's coaches to try and get them kicked off the squadhttps://t.co/WG49eJtODj
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) March 13, 2021
Detectives executed multiple search warrants throughout the year, allegedly tracking the phone numbers to an IP address, which led them to Spone. On Dec. 18, the police went into Spone’s home with a search warrant and took several devices, including multiple cellphones. In another search on Dec. 28, police analyzed the devices and found that six messages on one of the cellphones were the same dates one of the girls received messages, The Times reported.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Spone was arrested but released on the condition that she appear at a preliminary hearing on March 30.