Mom Charged in Deepfake Cheerleading Plot

A 50-year-old mom from Pennsylvania has been arrested after allegedly using deepfake technology to tarnish the reputations her daughter’s cheerleading rivals.

Raffaela Marie Spone, of Chalfont, Bucks County, is accused of using technological trickery to make videos that appear to show members of a cheerleading group naked, smoking, or drinking. 

The deepfake videos were sent to the cheerleaders’ coach in an alleged attempt to get the girls kicked off the squad. 

Hilltown Township Police Department launched an investigation in July last year after a minor reported that she was being harassed via text message. 

“During the course of the investigation, additional juvenile victims of harassment came forward. The victims were all found to be part of a cheerleading group based in the Doylestown area,” said the Hilltown Township Police Department.

“As part of the investigation, police executed multiple search warrants to determine the origin of the harassment. The investigation led police to an adult female who was affiliated with the cheerleading group.”

Spone allegedly doctored photos and videos of at least three members of the Victory Vipers, her daughter’s cheerleading team. The altered content was allegedly downloaded from the girls’ social media accounts. 

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Spone allegedly sent the deepfake photos and videos to the girls along with messages urging them to kill themselves. 

George Ratel, father of one of the girls Spone is accused of targeting, was bewildered by the mom’s alleged actions. 

“I don’t know what would push her to this point. As a dad I was pretty upset about it. It’s an image put out there of my daughter that is simply not true,” he said.

Police said they found evidence on Spone’s cell phone that linked her to harassing texts and images received by the cheerleaders. 

Spone was arrested on the afternoon of March 4th and has been charged with three misdemeanor counts of cyber-harassment of a child and three misdemeanor counts of harassment. 

No evidence has been found to suggest that Spone’s daughter was aware of her mother’s alleged attempts to redirect the limelight. 

A 2020 study funded by the Dawes Centre for Future Crime at University College London ranked fake audio or video content as the most worrying use of artificial intelligence in terms of its potential applications for crime or terrorism.

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