Local News

SBI Sees Growing Number Of Cyberstalking Cases

Posted June 25, 2005

— While many people may be have heard about Internet crimes against children, there is a growing computer crime that the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation calls cyberstalking.

The recent arrest of a man who allegedly sent threatening e-mails to some employees at WRAL has brought public attention to the crime, but experts say an individual does not have to be in a high-profile position to become a victim.

Cyberstalking is popping up in domestic cases and law enforcement is taking aim.

Agents with the SBI call Fern Georges a stalker online. They say Georges fixated on news anchors at WRAL, writing from a computer at a Benson public library. In a separate case, a state lawmaker was targeted through e-mail.

"It's an obsession -- a fantasy if you will," said SBI agent Mike East.

In the WRAL case, the e-mails Georges allegedly sent were sexually explicit and referenced cross burnings.

"When it starts taking on a personal level, we become very concerned with it," East said.

Technology is making Internet crimes easier to solve, but the SBI said most suspects still think they can hide behind a computer and stay anonymous.

The SBI Computer Crime Unit's main concentration has been to investigate cases involving child pornography, but the technology used in those cases can also help solve cyberstalking crimes.

It helped solve the WRAL case within two weeks. The technology helped identify the computer that was used to send the messages.

"We are also able to go through in a lot faster time period and extract out the remnants of deleted items," said Mike Smith of the SBI Computer Crime Unit.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper wants to expand the SBI Computer Crimes Unit. Seven new positions are in the state House of Representative's budget, but are not included in the Senate's version.

North Carolina's cyberstalking law, which first took effect in 2000, makes sending threatening, or even repeated harassing and annoying, e-mail a misdemeanor.

Under the law, prosecutors in the county where the message was sent or where it was opened can go after a suspect.

In March, two North Carolina residents were charged with cybercrimes. Gary Kathuria, of Raleigh, was arrested for allegedly sending threats to his boss and her children; and a Buncombe County man was arrested for allegedly sending out a murder-for hire e-mail to the husband of a brain-dead woman in Florida who wanted to remove his wife from life support.

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