Pennsylvania cheerleader targeted by rival’s mother in ‘deepfake’ plot felt no one would believe her
A teenage girl who was targeted in a mother’s alleged plot to take down her daughter’s cheerleading rivals with ‘deepfake’ videos has shared her shock at seeing a doctored clip of herself vaping.
Madi Hime was 16 years old when her coach on the Victory Vipers cheer squad in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, approached her about the video which appeared to show her puffing from a vaping device last year.
Madi appeared on Good Morning America on Monday after 50-year-old Raffaela Spone, the mother of one of her teammates, was arrested for allegedly creating the clip of her and more fake images of two other teammates.
Prosecutors said Spone made the images of the girls ‘naked, drinking and smoking’ in a bid to get them kicked off of the squad after they had a falling out with her daughter.
‘I went in the car and started crying and was like: “That’s not me in the video,”‘ Madi, now 17, told GMA. ‘I thought if I said it, no one would believe me because obviously, there’s proof, there’s a video – but obviously that video was manipulated.’
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Madi Hime (left) appeared on Good Morning America with her mom Jennifer (right) on Monday after 50-year-old Raffaela Spone was arrested for allegedly creating deepfake clips of her and two girls on the Victory Vipers cheer squad after they had a falling out with Spone’s daughter
Madi was 16 years old when her cheer coach approached her about a video which appeared to show her puffing from a vaping device last year. Madi said she feared no one would believe that the video (left and right) was fake
Madi said she also received other images via text from someone posing as a concerned parent.
Spone (pictured) was arrested on March 4 and charged cyber harassment of a child
When she asked for the person’s name, she received an automated response asking if she wanted to change her phone number.
Madi ultimately brought the messages to her mother, Jennifer Hime.
‘It had actually been going on for quite a while, I just didn’t know about it,’ Hime told GMA.
‘I told [Madi]: “I’m going to call the police,” because I wanted her to know that’s how much I believed her.’
Investigators with the Hilltown Township Police Department traced the phone number that had sent the messages to Madi back to Spone, and later learned that she’d allegedly sent similar images to the two other teammates.
Spone, who lives in Chalfront, was arrested on March 4 and charged with three counts of cyber harassment of a child and three counts of harassment.
Her attorney, Robert Birch, said he hadn’t seen any evidence of the alleged crimes when approached by WPVI-TV.
‘She has absolutely denied what they’re charging her with and because of the fact that this has hit the press, she has received death threats,’ Birch said.
‘She has had to go to the police herself, they have a report. Her life has been turned upside down.’
Madi – one of three girls allegedly targeted by Spone – is pictured in her cheerleading uniform
‘Deepfaking’ is the process of doctoring an existing image or video, but it is more sophisticated than Photoshop because it uses a form of artificial intelligence.
Spone allegedly created the deepfakes by ‘mapping the victims’ social media photos onto other images in a bid to make them look real.
The mom is then accused of anonymously sending the graphic pictures and videos to the coaches of the cheerleading team.
She also allegedly sent the doctored images directly to the teenage girls, along with message to one of them urging her to ‘kill herself’.
Prosecutors said Spone made the images of the girls ‘naked, drinking and smoking’ in a bid to get them kicked off of the Victory Vipers squad after they had a falling out with her daughter
The investigation was opened last July after Madi’s family contacted police about the disturbing material.
During the probe, officers realized that two other girls on the team had also been targeted.
Detectives traced four phone numbers that had sent the deepfake images and tied them all to a telemarketing website.
They then traced data from that website to an IP address at Spone’s house.
Police say a subsequent search of Spone’s phone uncovered the text messages and deepfake images that she had sent to the three victims and the team’s coaches.
Spone was released on bond and has not yet entered a plea.
Court records obtained by The Philadelphia Inquirer state that there is no evidence Spone’s daughter knew what her mother was doing.