Pennsylvania woman accused of sending deepfakes to cheerleading coaches to smear daughter’s rivals

BUCKS COUNTY, Pa. — A Pennsylvania woman is facing misdemeanor cyberbullying charges after prosecutors allege she anonymously sent coaches on her daughter’s cheerleading squad fake photos and videos of the teenager’s rivals in a bid to have them forced from the team.

Raffaela Spone, 50, is accused of sending the manipulated electronic communications depicting the unidentified minor girls naked, drinking or smoking as well as anonymous text messages urging those girls to kill themselves, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

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According to the affidavit of probable cause for her arrest, Spone was charged Wednesday with misdemeanor counts of cyber harassment of a child and related offenses, the newspaper reported.

“Spone last year created the doctored images of at least three members,” the affidavit stated, referencing the Victory Vipers, the Doylestown-based traveling cheerleading group to which her daughter belongs, PennLive reported.

According to the outlet, there are no indications that Spone’s daughter had any knowledge of her mother’s actions.

Hilltown police were contacted by one of the teenager’s parents in July, and then two more families came forward with similar accounts indicating that they and their coaches received text messages that depicted them naked, drinking and smoking a vape pen, the Inquirer reported.

Detectives were able to determine, however, that the videos and photographs were “deepfakes,” or digitally altered but realistic looking communications, crafted by mapping the girls’ social media photos and other images, the newspaper reported.

Spone is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on March 30.

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