A Pennsylvania-based mother is accused of using deepfake technology to frame her teenage daughter's cheerleading rivals in an attempt to get them booted from the team or convince them to kill themselves.
The woman, 50-year-old Raffaela Spone of Chalfont, Pennsylvani reportedly sent manipulated photos and videos that showed at least three teenage members of the Victory Vipers, a competitive cheerleading squad based in Doylestown, to the cheerleading coaches.
Spone Sent Deepfakes of Girls Naked, Smoking and Drinking
The images appeared to show the girls either naked or in bikinis, drinking alcohol and smoking vape pens and indulging in other activities that would get them kicked off the team. Spone also sent anonymous messages to the girls that urged them to commit suicide.
The harassment came to light after a victim's parents alerted law enforcement to the anonymous messages. There is no evidence to indicate that Spone's daughter was aware of her mother's actions. Two other families as well as the cheerleading coaches came forward not long after and informed police that they received similar messages containing videos and images.
Deepfakes Made Using Girls' Social Media Accounts
After investigating the messages, police determined that the videos were deepfakes and had been made using images from the girls' social media accounts. It is not yet known whether Spone herself created the deepfakes or hired someone to do it.
Investigators traced the phone numbers used to send the text messages back to an app known as Pinger that allows users purchase numbers to make voice calls or send SMS messages. The numbers were purchased by an account using an IP address that was later linked to Spone and a search of the woman's phone later confirmed that she had sent the messages.
Spone was arrested on March 5 and charges last week with three counts of cyber harassment of a child and three counts of harassment, according to Hilltown Township Police Department online records. Spone has since been released and is expected in court on March 30.
Victory Vipers Releases Statement
In a statement, the Victory Vipers said the group "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," the statement read. "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. When the criminal investigation ensued, we fully cooperated with law enforcement. All athletes involved, are no longer a part of our program."