Mom Charged With Creating 'Deepfakes' of Daughter's Cheerleader Rivals, Including Some Pictured Nude, Cops Say
Madi Hime, 17, said she was upset when fake videos of her vaping surfaced: "I just knew it wasn’t real because I don’t do that."
Fake pictures and videos of cheerleaders drinking, smoking and even in the nude surfaced after a Pennsylvania mom allegedly doctored “deepfake” videos of her daughter’s rivals to get them kicked off the team, authorities said.
Raffaela Spone, 50, of Bucks County, is charged with three misdemeanor counts of cyber harassment of a child and related offenses, the Hilltown Township Police Department said.
The allegations began in July 2020, when a juvenile came forward about being harassed via text message, the Hilltown Township Police Department said in a statement. As authorities pursued the investigation, more alleged victims began coming forward.
“I was really upset," 17-year-old Madi Hime told WPVI. "I was like, 'Who says this to someone? Who thinks it's OK?' It made me more mad than upset."
Madi, who is on the cheer squad with Spone’s daughter, said she was one of the girls who was targeted in the cyber-bullying. She said that she and Spone’s daughter had a falling out, and Madi said that for two months later, she received text messages from an anonymous number saying that she had no friends, and that she should kill herself.
She said the owner of her cheerleading squad received a fake video of her vaping. “I just knew it wasn’t real because I don’t do that,” she said.
George Ratel, father of one of the alleged victims, told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “I don’t know what would push her to this point. As a dad, I was pretty upset by it. It’s an image put out there of my daughter that is simply not true.”
Ratel said that, like Madi, his daughter was initially friends with Spone’s daughter but he and his wife told his daughter to cut off the friendship, which he believes sparked the alleged bullying by the mother.
Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub explained that Spone had allegedly “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," according to WPVI.
Detectives were able to trace the anonymous phone numbers allegedly to Spone’s home in Chalfont, which is when they found evidence on her phone linking her to the text messages, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
There is no indication Spone's daughter knew what her mom was doing, according to court records.
Spone was arrested earlier this month and released on condition she appear at a preliminary hearing on March 30.
Spone denies the allegations, her attorney Robert Birch told Inside Edition Digital. "They are only allegations and she intends to vigorously defend the allegations," he said.
The cheer squad, Victory Vipers, told Inside Edition Digital that while the incident happened outside of the gym, they fully cooperated with the criminal investigation as well as launched an independent investigation.
"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," they said in a statement. "All athletes involved, are no longer apart of our program."
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