Facebook has changed everything on the Internet; how companies advertise, how people network themselves, and how criminals prey on the unsuspecting. Facebook has been involved in a number of crimes, from stalking to identity theft, bullying and murders. Here’s a list of a few standout cases.
Interests: Rape, Murder, Fluffy Animals
Nona Belomesoff was eighteen when she met Christopher Dannewig on Facebook. The twenty-year old claimed to be an animal rescue worker, and moreover, said his employers were hiring. After Belomesoff, a dedicated animal lover, expressed interest in a job, he told her that the first part of her training included an overnight camping trip. With him. In a secluded area.
Though most of us would have alarm bells going off by this point, Belomesoff decided to go along with it. Tragically, but unsurprisingly, her body was found in a creek a few days later.
When changing your relationship status isn’t enough
The next few are dedicated to all the crazy exes in the world, and the various ways they can ruin — or end — your life over the Internet. So much for bringing people closer, Facebook.
Facebook is too new for everyone to really have picked up proper posting etiquette. For the record, here’s one major faux pas: posting about your imminent breakup before, you know, actually breaking up. Tracy Grinhaff, a 42 year old mother from South Yorkshire, England, found this out the hard way and paid for it with her life. She updated her status to tell the world that she and her husband were splitting. Apparently, her husband didn’t agree; he came home from work and bludgeoned her to death in the shed of their family home. He proceeded to enter some woods nearby and killed himself.
When “letting them down gently” backfires.
Camille Mathurasingh met Paul Bristol during the three years she worked as an accountant in Bristol’s native Trinidad. The two quickly developed a romance, which became a long-distance relationship when he moved back home to Britain. It became apparent, however, that a relationship of phone calls and emails was not enough for Mathurasingh. She began dating Besim Haxhia, and broke it off with Bristol.
Bristol was so enraged when she posted a picture of herself and the new boyfriend that he flew 4,000 miles to confront Mathurasingh. After one barely-avoided encounter with her jealous ex in which Bristol had chased after her car, Mathurasingh called her sister. Her sister reported that the terrified woman “looked into her rear-view mirror. She said he [Bristol] looked evil.”
Her description proved to be apt. Bristol broke into her apartment and savagely stabbed the woman twenty times. In a fit of remorse, he then tried to cut his own throat. In a further fit of regret, he then took Mathurasingh’s car and crashed it on a busy road in east London. Bristol was convicted of Mathurasingh’s murder in March 2010. The judge presiding over the case, in an example of understating the completely obvious, pronounced that Bristol was “Clearly… eaten up with jealously.” Um, yeah, you think?
Now who’s laughing? Uh, nobody. Oh, God.
The age-old adage about not airing your dirty laundry in public definitely applies to Facebook. Lisa Beverly and Adam Mann were married in 2001, divorced in 2007, and by 2009, when this case took place, it became increasingly apparent that their relationship was (to put it lightly) strained.
“He is a waste of space and anyone who knows him will tell you the same,” she wrote. “He can’t look after his own kids but can take someone else’s on. He is a joke mate. Sorry I am being a bitch.”
Beverly was pursuing Mann for child support, which he had refused to pay. Child Services intervened, demanding Mann pay £400 in backdated support. “Now who’s laughing?” Beverly posted tauntingly. “You have got done big time by the CS (sic) so now leave us alone for good. Your son hates you and so do I.”
The next day, Beverly’s body was discovered by her five year-old son. She had been stabbed and extensively beaten with a hammer. Adam Mann was arrested and charged with her murder quickly thereafter. In a final, awful twist, police later discovered that Mann had logged into Beverly’s computer and changed the password to “fucked”.
Idle hands do the devil’s stupid work
Two teenagers in Bayboro, North Carolina were charged with cyberstalking their school’s interim principal in August of 2010. They created a false Facebook profile for her, posting such inane updates as “I just finished eating a hot dog.” Ha ha ha — wait, what?
Though this is probably the least harmful of all the cybercrimes on this list, it definitely wins “Least Creative Prank Ever”. These kids would have been better off making crank calls and ordering pizzas to their teacher’s house.
Robbery in New Hampshire
Are you planning on heading out of town for the weekend? You might consider not telling the entire world about it. In Nashua, New Hampshire, three Facebook-savvy thieves “cybercased” potential victims by reading their status updates. They learned when victims were at work, when they were at home, and when they were out of town. The three men burglarized close to 50 homes in the area and stole between $100,000 to $200,000 dollars worth of goods, taking everything from cash, jewelry, electronics, remote-controlled cars, and even fireworks. Nothing was safe, not even the Roman Candles.
Because no criminal is actually that smart, an off-duty policeman caught the three men after they started setting off some of their stolen fireworks in their backyard. Is that what they call going out with a bang?
I am so defriending you
Just in case you needed another reason not to accept random strangers’ friend requests, here’s a story from New Albany, Indiana. Keri McMullen wrote a status update mentioning that she and her boyfriend would be at a concert until late. Not-so-shockingly, the couple came home from the concert and found that their home had been burglarized, with about $10,000 worth of equipment and jewelry missing.
The robbers were caught on the video system that McMullen and boyfriend Kurt Pendleton had (conveniently) installed the week before. After McMullen posted the footage to Facebook – seriously, the woman needs a new hobby – she realized that one of the robbers looked familiar. He had apparently friended her the week before, claiming to be an old neighbor from 20 years ago.
Welcome to America, Land of the Cyberbullies
Phoebe Prince’s story reads like the plot to a terrible Lifetime movie. The fifteen-year-old native Irish girl had recently moved to South Hadley, Massachusetts with her family. She began school in September of 2009, and at first, all seemed good: she was in a relationship with a senior on the football team, was making friends, and doing well in her classes.
But in a plot twist worthy of a teenage soap opera, Phoebe’s social status at the school took a nosedive after she came into the sights of a group of catty classmates, who make the characters of Mean Girls look like Girl Scouts. The evil group of teenage backstabbers used Facebook to bully Phoebe, sending her threatening messages and scrawling epithets like “Irish Slut” on her wall. The relentless harassment continued outside of cyber-space as well, with numerous incidents happening on and off school grounds. School officials, of course, did nothing. You can probably guess the end of this story, since it’s one that’s been in the news far too many times recently; Phoebe Prince committed suicide at home on January 14, 2010.
Nine teens were arrested in connection to her death, on charges including statutory rape, civil rights violations, criminal harassment, stalking, and assault, and are awaiting trial. Other students have been expelled, Phoebe’s family has left the area, and the Massachusetts state legislature has passed a number of laws regarding bullying. The rest of us are waiting to see when Law and Order: SVU adapts this into an episode.
Number One Fan(atic)
You may or may not remember Carolyn Owlett, whose 15 minutes of fame came in 2004 when she was a member of British girl-pop band The 411. Now, anyone with even a hint of celebrity is going to have to deal with some socially-awkward fans, but nobody expects someone to confess their undying love to you on your daily commute, and even worse, seem convinced that you’re in love with him.
Carolyn Owlett was ambushed by a stranger at the Tube station in London’s Oxford Circus.
“I was terrified,” the former pop star said. “This man was shouting my name and personal information about me across Oxford Circus station but I had no idea who he was. He said he’d come from Belgium to be with me. I was so scared. I yelled at him to leave me alone. He looked like he’d been shot through the heart.”
Ready for a plot twist? Regis Rencle, the Belgian man who followed Owlett into the station, is not the villain of the story; he’s just a bystander, albeit a creepy one who needs lessons in learning how to chat up the ladies. The real criminal is a woman who called herself Kristella Erbicella, who had been impersonating Owlett online, with her own Facebook page and thousands of pictures that she’d stolen from the real Carolyn’s personal account. Through Facebook, as well as Skype and text messaging, the impersonator had conducted steamy affairs with several men. She even used Photoshop to doctor photos, furthering the fantasy romances.
After the incident on the Tube, Owlett confronted her Facebook impostor. Erbicella sent Owlett a single message of apology and explanation — justifying her creeptastic actions by saying “I really respect you. You have always been my idol,” as if that were an actual excuse — before deleting her email, Facebook account, and every other online trace of herself.
“It’s Complicated” doesn’t begin to cover it
Jason Smith, of Manchester, England, is in the running for the title of “Most Obsessive Stalker Ever”. Alexandra Scarlett, a twenty-year old also from Manchester, had the misfortune of meeting Smith at a nightclub in November of 2007. In what was probably the worst decision of her life, she gave Smith her phone number.
Let this be a lesson: friends shouldn’t let friends give their contact info out to total creepsters.
The very next day, Smith began calling her. And calling her. And calling her some more, just in case she didn’t realize from the other two dozen phone calls that he really liked her. Put off by his disturbing behavior, Scarlett asked him to stop trying to contact her. Smith responded by threatening to shoot her father. You know, as you do when you’re a rational adult.
Further threats followed: Smith sent Scarlett up to 30 Facebook messages a day, threatening to slash her face, kill her, rape her mother and her aunt, hurt her friends. And just to spice things up, he’d tell her he loved her every so often. Numerous attempts to block him failed. When he was finally arrested — two years later — he told the police that Alexandra was obviously in love with him as well. The kindest thing anyone could say for him was summed up by his defense lawyer: “Mr Smith is wrestling with the reality of what took place and his understanding of what took at the time. He saw what he thought was the beginning of a relationship.”
Is “wrestling with reality” the P.C. way of saying “total fucking nutjob”?
Jessica Zamora-Anderson probably should have guessed that her relationship with Paul Franco was doomed from the beginning. The couple met through Facebook in November of 2008, when he posed as an English teacher from Queens College in New York. Franco quickly proved himself to be a violent, manipulative douchebag; Zamora-Anderson accused him of being physically abusive towards her, and said that he claimed to have taped them having sex without her knowledge. When his car was towed from nearby her apartment, he demanded that she pay the $185 impound fee, or he would release the sex tape.
A few days later, Zamora-Anderson realized that her Facebook account had been hacked. Her sexual preferences were changed to gay, and all of her friends and family were being spammed. Franco demanded an extra $390 from his now-ex-girlfriend in exchange for the account’s password. Instead of paying, Zamora-Anderson went to the police, charging Franco with coercion and harassment. Because once you start messing with someone’s Facebook preferences, then it’s serious.
Someone needs a new hobby.
Travis Davis — another person who should probably have all his Internet rights revoked — made this list after, in August 2010, he created a fake Facebook profile for his rape victim. Yes, as if being sexually violated weren’t enough, he then used her identity to threaten his ex-girlfriend. He threatened to distribute a sex tape he had made of them — without her knowledge or consent — if she didn’t a.) have cyber sex with him, and b.) move back to Indiana to be with him. A few days later, Davis used the fake profile to send naked pictures of his ex to the woman and her boyfriend’s mother.
Police arrested Davis on August 15 in Pennsylvania after someone reported a suspicious man sleeping in his car outside his ex’s house. He had a .45 caliber pistol in the car with him, as well as three magazines of bullets and a box cutter. Thank God for nosy-ass neighbors.
The hit list
In the small town of Puerto Asis in the southwestern region of Colombia, in August of 2010, an exodus began. A hit list containing the names of over 90 local teenagers (some of them as young as 16) was published on Facebook. It, and two following lists, were sent to those teenagers that had been named, as well as to their family and friends, with instructions to leave town within three days. Within a week, 16-year-old Diego Ferney Jaramillo, 19-year-old Norbey Alexander Vargas, and 17-year-old Eibart Alejandro Ruiz Munoz were shot dead.
The violence wasn’t the work of a lone lunatic: it was created by local criminal gangs with ties to drug-trafficking. The death threats undermine the town, sowing panic and confusion.
The irony here is that the gangs are posing as moralists: they’re targeting “people with vices”, outlawing parties, and warning parents: “Do not let your children out in the street after 10:00 PM; it won’t be our fault if innocents fall.” It’s just like Footloose… only in Colombia… and with bloodthirsty gangs. Kevin Bacon wouldn’t have lasted ten minutes.
A hundred times worse than Facebook fapping
Next on our list of “Reasons to Get Off the Internet” is Ryan Earl McCann of Kanata, near Ottawa, Canada. At 18, McCann concocted an elaborate scheme to create his own personal pornography stash. Creating a dozen different online personas complete with Facebook profiles, as well as a puppet website called ‘Talen’s Playground’, he enticed girls — some as young as 14 — into performing for his personal and twisted pleasure. He began by friending them on Facebook and chatting with them, talking about what seemed like a legitimate gig on an adult website. He offered them tens of thousands of dollars to perform in front of a webcam; the girls would take off their clothing, touch themselves, simulate fellatio on various objects, and even write degrading messages on their bodies. When the girls inevitably balked, he would threaten to release the videos, making her life “a living hell”. He hacked into their Facebook profiles and tried to recruit their friends for his fake business.
McCann ran his fake business for over a year before being caught in March of 2009. Police eventually identified over 22 victims in the Ottawa area, and a forensic examiner found evidence of at least 50 videos on McCann’s hard drive. Though McCann claimed not to have distributed the videos on the Internet, his credibility is undermined somewhat by the fact that he’s a complete and total sociopath.
Next time, just use Craigslist.
Or, “Reasons why letting sex offenders use the Internet is bad.” At 19, Peter Chapman was convicted of raping two prostitutes at knifepoint and sentenced to seven years in prison. Despite being a suspect in six other sexual assaults, none of the cases ever went to trial. He remained a free man until September of 2009, when he was arrested due to a minor traffic offense. However, when the police took him in for questioning, the interrogation took a morbid turn.
Ashleigh Hall was a 17-year-old student who lived near Durham, England. Like most of her peers, she spent a lot of time on the computer, principally on Facebook. And like many of us, she didn’t think it too risky to meet someone she only knew online: a hunky teenage boy whose profile picture featured him tanned and shirtless. When she went to meet the young man, however, 33-year-old Peter Chapman was waiting for her. He had created the profile in order to entice young women into meeting him. He raped and strangled Ashleigh, and left her body in a nearby field. After his traffic arrest and subsequent questioning, Chapman led police to Ashleigh’s body. At his trial, the judge sentenced him to serve a minimum of 35 years.