She also encouraged the teens to kill themselves, prosecutors say.
A Pennsylvania mom has been accused with deep-faking videos of her daughter’s cheerleader rivals to try and get them kicked off the team.
Raffaela Spone, 50, was charged with three counts of Cyber Harassment of a Child and three counts of Harassment after she was caught sending manipulating pictures and videos of high school girls to make it appear like they were stripping, smoking and drinking, prosecutors say.
Hilltown Police Department began the investigation in July of 2020, following reports of a juvenile being harassed via text message. During the investigation, more victims came forward — and police quickly put together that they were all members of the Victory Vipers cheerleading group.
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The first girl began receiving text messages from an anonymous number, including faked photos of her naked, drinking and smoking a vape. She told her parents, who informed the police. It soon emerged that her cheerleading coaches had been sent the same messages, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
“The suspect is alleged to have taken a real picture and edited it through some photoshopping app to make it look like this teenaged girl had no clothes on to appear nude, when in reality that picture was a screengrab from the teenager’s social media in which she had a bathing suit on,” Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub said.
The anonymous texter, who identified themself as “a concerned parent” had also urged the victims to kill themselves, Weintraub added.
Detectives traced the numbers to a website that sells numbers to telemarketers; following data from the IP address led to Spone’s house in Chalfont. They say they found evidence on her phone linking her to the messages.
Prosecutors allege the harassment began after Spone had a falling out with the parents of the other girls; one of the victim’s fathers told police he and his wife told their daughter to stop hanging out with Spone’s, due to concerns over her behavior.
Police do not believe Spone’s daughter was aware of the campaign.
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Madi Hime, who was 16 when the harassment began, said one of her coaches pulled her aside and asked her about the video of her supposedly vaping; she told GMA even though she knew it wasn’t her in the video, she was afraid people wouldn’t believe her.
“I went in the car and started crying and was like: ‘That’s not me on video,'” she said. “I thought if I said it, that no one would believe me because obviously, there’s proof, it’s a video. But obviously that video was manipulated.”
Spone’s attorney Robert Birch said she denies all charges.
“She has absolutely denied what they’re charging her with and because of the fact that this has hit the press, she has received death threats. She has had to go to the police herself, they have a report,” he said. “Her life has been turned upside down.”
The Victory Vipers told ABC News they cooperated with the police investigation, have a “very strict anti-bullying policy” and “all athletes involved, are no longer apart of our program.”
“Victory Vipers has always promoted a family environment and we are sorry for all individuals involved. We have very well-established policies, and a very strict anti-bullying policy in our program,” coaches Mark McTague & Kelly Cramer said. “When this incident came to our attention last year we immediately initiated our own internal investigation and took the appropriate action at the time. This incident happened outside of our gym.”
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