Crime

Florida woman used 400 social media accounts to target, harass her enemies, FBI says

Steffen pleaded guilty to one count of cyberstalking and one count of sending threatening communications online. She faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison per count, prosecutors say.
Steffen pleaded guilty to one count of cyberstalking and one count of sending threatening communications online. She faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison per count, prosecutors say.

A 36-year-old Florida woman who made headlines in July when she admitted to staging her daughter’s kidnapping has pleaded guilty to a new set of charges of cyberstalking.

According to United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez, Tammy Marie Steffen created nearly 400 social accounts to “cyberstalk, harass and threaten her victims.” Prosecutors say her abusive activity dates back to August 2016 and continued until July 2018.

It was in July that Steffen used her 12-year-old daughter to stage a kidnapping attempt. She filed a false police report and eventually admitted that she had done so in order to get back at a business associate.

FBI investigators found that Steffen used at least 369 Instagram and 18 email accounts to target and harass six victims, some of whom are also former business associates.

“She cyberstalked, harassed and threatened several of her former colleagues and associates through repeated emails, phone calls, text messages and social media messages from numerous phone numbers and accounts,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a release.

Many of the victims received death threats from Steffen. Some of the messages read “you will die by my hands” and “I plan to slice you up into little pieces. Your blood shall I taste.”

Court records indicate that an FBI investigation began Jan. 24 when the agency obtained three search warrants to look into 89 Instagram accounts believed to be used to stalk and harass. More than half of those accounts were associated with Steffen’s IP address. Others traced back to her workplace or her parents’ home, prosecutors say.

A search of Steffen’s home was conducted June 18. At the time, she agreed to an interview in which she admitted that she had relationships with the victims and that she had used fake accounts to send disturbing messages.

According to court records, each of the victims shared stories about other ways that Steffen sought to disrupt their lives. In one instance, she used voice-disguising software and fake numbers to threaten one victim’s life. In another, she manipulated a victim’s business voicemail message to include “sounds of a sexual nature, including people moaning,” prosecutors said.

Steffen pleaded guilty to one count of cyberstalking and one count of sending threatening communications online. She faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison per count. Prosecutors say a sentencing hearing has not been determined.

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