DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (CBS) — Shocking charges tonight against a Bucks County woman. Raffaela Spone is accused of cyberbullying and authorities say her target was three teen girls on a cheerleading squad.
The 50-year-old Chalfont woman is now on the hook for charges of cyberbullying.READ MORE: Meat Loaf, 'Bat Out of Hell' Rock Superstar, Dies At 74
Spone is accused of targeting teen cheerleaders in what are known as “deepfakes” — it’s where tech experts say anybody’s appearance can be altered to portray them doing something inappropriate, even illegal, when it actually isn’t them.
News of the case went viral on Monday and prompted the Bucks County District Attorney‘s Office to call a press conference.
“Our allegation is that Ms. Spone took existing images from existing social media — from these three victims’ existing social media accounts — and manipulated them,” District Attorney Matt Weintraub said.
Spone is now charged in connection to an alleged summer’s-long campaign to undermine at least three teenaged girls. Court papers show it involved members of the Victory Vipers, a cheerleading program, just outside Doylestown.
One parent claims in July her daughter began receiving texts and voice messages encouraging her to kill herself. Detectives say images were also sent to the teen. They were doctored and portrayed her as nude, drinking alcohol and vaping.READ MORE: 3 Sharon Hill Police Officers Fired After Being Charged In Shooting Death Of 8-Year-Old Fanta Bility
An extensive trace of phone records and resulting searches allege Spone sent the harassing material to get the young ladies in trouble at the gym.
Executing a search warrant, police removed a trove of electronics and technology from Spone’s residence.
Detectives say Spone used apps and programs to conceal her cell number that she used to send manipulated images and media.
“Social media is ever-present, it’s universal now, but anybody can be made a victim with the click of a button,” Weintraub said.
In a statement, the Victory Vipers distanced themselves from Spone.
“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,” said Mark McTauge and Kelly Cramer, co-owners of the Victory Vipers Training Center, in a statement.MORE NEWS: Investigation Underway After Man Shot In Southeast Philadelphia
Spone is charged with six misdemeanor counts. She is free tonight and has not responded to CBS3’s requests for comment.