Cheerleading Mom Accused of Making Nude Deepfakes to Incriminate Daughter's Rivals

The mother of a teenage cheerleader created deepfake images and videos using social media photos in an apparent effort to damage rival members of her daughter's squad, according to Pennsylvania police.

Hilltown Township Police arrested Raffaela Spone on March 10 amid accusations that she created so-called deepfakes—digitally altered videos and images that can appear realistic—depicting some of the girls nude, smoking and drinking alcohol.

The 50-year-old faces three counts of cyber harassment of a child and three counts of harassment arising from her use of the deepfakes, according to the police department.

Spone allegedly sent harassing text messages to members of the Victory Vipers cheerleading team in 2019, police said.

She also allegedly sent doctored images and videos to the girls and their coaches in what appears to have been an effort to damage them and possibly get them kicked off the squad. Some of the deepfakes showed the girls nude.

One of the girl's families contacted the police in July last year and two more families subsequently came forward.

Executing search warrants, officers were able to trace the messages to Spone's IP address and then her cell phone. Police analyzed the videos and images and concluded they were deepfakes created by mapping photos of the girls taken from their social media accounts onto other images. However, it does not appear that Spone's daughter knew about her alleged actions.

"Spone last year created the doctored images of at least three members," a court affidavit said.

Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub's office told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the teenage girls had received the images in anonymous messages and that the messages had also urged the girls to kill themselves.

The various manipulated media showed the girls drinking alcohol, smoking vapes and in states of undress. The teenagers and their families were concerned that the images could get them removed from the cheerleading team.

George Ratel, the father of one of the girls who was sent the images, said he believed the harassment began because he and his wife told their daughter to stop socializing with Spone's daughter due to concerns about her behavior.

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

Raffaela Spone has been released on condition that she present herself at a preliminary hearing on the matter on March 30.

A Red Megaphone Used by Cheerleaders
A red megaphone used by cheerleaders on the track next to red and white pom poms on the green turf. A cheerleading mom has been accused of creating deepfakes to damage members of her daughter's team. WoodysPhotos/GettyImages