Marple man who posed as a producer and reporter, and falsified news by creating racist email, charged with identity theft and tampering
Media, PA – Delaware County District Attorney Kat Copeland announced that Nikolaos Tzima Hatziefstathiou, also known as “Nik the Hat,” 25, has been charged with creating a false racist government email, posing as a Good Morning America producer and New York Times reporter in an effort to obtain government documents, tampering with records by removing distinguishing marks/brand, and with possessing a stolen taser.
Nikolaos Tzima Hatziefstathiou, also known as “Nik the Hat,” 25, of the 700 block of Cedar Grove Road in Broomall, is charged with three counts tampering with public records, felonies of the third degree, three counts of tampering with records or identification, forgery, two counts of identity theft, attempted theft by deception, theft of property lost, mislaid, or delivered by mistake, receiving stolen property, prohibited offensive weapons, all first degree misdemeanors, and four counts of unsworn falsification to authorities, misdemeanors of the second degree. The arrest comes at the conclusion of an investigation conducted by Sergeant Kenneth Bellis, Detectives Ed Pisani, Jr., and Christopher Tankelewicz of the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office Criminal Investigation Division (CID) Cyber Crimes Unit.
Posing as a Good Morning America producer and New York Times reporter using false emails to obtain documents
On April 22, 2019, the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office received an email from Nikolaos Hatziefstathiou, the self-identified “Chief Content Officer,” “Editor in Chief,” and “President of News” for YC News, regarding a “breaking” story about a purported “decade long scheme,” stating that he would send “investigative findings” before midnight. No information regarding the story or “findings” was received by the District Attorney’s Office.
From April 23 to April 25, 2019, Nikolaos Hatziefstathiou, after creating fake email accounts posing as Stephanie Wash, a Good Morning America producer, and Liam Stack, a New York Times reporter, sent several emails to the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office repeatedly asking for any reports and a comment regarding a claimed “decade long scheme” involving several “Delaware County agencies.” One of these emails stated the sender was trying to get “first comment” on a story that was going to be released by Nik Hatziefstathiou, “Chief Content Officer at Original Media Group” in Philadelphia. The Delaware County District Attorney’s Office contacted Stephanie Wash and Liam Stack, both of whom confirmed that they had not sent or authored the emails. Between April 30, 2019 and May 28, 2019, CID obtained several search warrants for the fake email accounts and found that the falsified emails were sent from an electronic device at Hatziefstathiou’s house in Broomall.
Forging government documents
Law enforcement investigation into Hatziefstathiou showed that he used forged paperwork to obtain a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation specialty plate identifying him as being employed full time by a news agency.
Falsifying government document to create racist email
On May 25, 2019, Nikolaos Hatziefstathiou posted an article on the YC News website that included images of a purported email from an individual identified as a supervisor in Delaware County Adult Probation and Parole Office using a racial slur and giving advice about how to apply for a job with the county. The redacted email reads as follows: “Good morning, you don’t have to worry about job security … ROFL … so long as there’s a n---- in our county, you will have a full slate. Just make sure he registers as a (redacted) before applying, they’re extremely strict about that. Can’t have a bunch of gangbangs loving (redacted) in here … ha. (sic).” The YC news article claimed they had obtained the email as a result of it being accidentally sent to an individual on probation. As a result of this article, the Delaware County Information Technology conducted a search of all Delaware County emails and found that, contrary to what was claimed, the email did not originate from the Delaware County email system.
On June 5, 2019, a CID detective spoke with a supervisor at the Delaware County Adult Probation and Parole Office, who advised that Nikolaos Hatziefstathiou had been supervised by their office as a result of Hatziefstathiou’s arrest and conviction for several counts of false reports to law enforcement and harassment. During the period of time of Hatziefstathiou’s supervision, the probation supervisor would periodically email Hatziefstathiou’s attorneys and carbon copy Hatziefstathiou on these emails.
On June 24, 2019, CID executed a search warrant at Hatziefstathiou’s house on the 700 block of Cedar Grove Road in Broomall. Numerous electronic devices of Hatziefstathiou were seized and a printed email from a Delaware County probation supervisor was located in his bedroom. The format of this email matches the format of the fraudulent racist email but instead contained information in the body of the email related to Hatziefstathiou when he was on probation. Delaware County Adult Probation had requested and obtained a bench warrant for Hatziefstathiou as a result of his violating probation and the probation supervisor was communicating by email with Hatziefstathiou's attorneys.
During the execution of the search warrant, detectives also found a police-style Taser with two firing cartridges that was the property of a local Delaware County Police Department. An examination of the device showed it has been discharged as recently as of June 2019. The recovered Taser has been reported missing from inventory and identified as stolen.
CID Detective Christopher Tankelewicz, a computer forensic examiner, completed an examination of Hatziefstathiou’s seized electronic devices. Investigation revealed that Hatziefstathiou's Apple iPhone contained artifacts of the fraudulent emails and that Hatziefstathiou's Apple iPhone was used to create, send, and receive emails using the fraudulent accounts in the names of the legitimate Good Morning America producer and New York Times reporter.
Detective Tankelewicz located the falsified racist email on different devices seized from Hatziefstathiou. Located on his computer was a PDF copy of the probation supervisor's email that was located on the floor of Hatziefstathiou bedroom. Detective Tankelewicz was able to identify the step by step process showing how Hatziestathiou created and posted the falsified racist document on the YC News website. Forensic evidence revealed how Hatziestathiou created "black out strips" (for purported redactions) and placed them over parts of the supervisor’s original email dated April 25, 2016. The forensic examination of the electronic devices shows that from May 24 to 25, 2019, Hatziestathiou created the content of the racist email, superimposed it over the real content of the supervisor’s original email, superimposed the fraudulently created email over a YC News background, and posted it on the YC News website. Other evidence located were photographs taken of the Delaware County Adult Probation office used for the published story and the use of an online photo editing program. Evidence recovered during the forensic examination identified Hatziestathiou as the possessor and sole user of the MacBook Pro computer used to create, edit, and post the offensive racially charged email investigated. In addition to being password protected multiple devices that belong to Nikolaos Hatziefstathiou were used to commit the above criminal offenses. Nikolaos Hatziefstathiou would use his Apple iPhone to discuss the racist email with a local politician at the same time Hatziefstathiou was creating the email on his laptop.
Purchasing messages from Cameo and altering them to appear to be news
During execution of the search warrant on Hatziestathiou’s electronic devices, law enforcement discovered evidence showing Hatziestathiou, using the Cameo website, paid for and created news which he then posted to the YC News website. Cameo is a website that allows users to pay money to celebrities and receive personalized messages based on information submitted by the purchaser.
On May 7, 2019, YC News website posted an article, with an associated video, claiming that rap artist and actor Ice-T was speaking out against an ongoing appeal handled by the Delaware County District Attorney's Office. At the end of the video, Ice-T is heard thanking “Nik.” On May 13, 2019, YC News website posted an article, with an associated video, claiming that rap artist and actor Snoop Dogg was joining Ice-T and speaking out against the same ongoing appeal handled by the Delaware County District Attorney's Office. Both of these videos had watermarks and the name of YC News superimposed over top of the video in an attempt to make it appear that it was part of a legitimate interview conducted by YC News.
Investigation of the Cameo website reveals a profile for Ice-T and Snoop Dogg. The site advertises that personal messages can be purchased from Ice-T for $350 and for $500 from Snoop Dogg. According to the legal department at Cameo, they own the videos produced and that altering and/or editing them, such as removing the Cameo watermark, is strictly prohibited. Furthermore, users are not authorized to use the videos for commercial and/or promotional purposes but rather the videos are strictly for personal use only.
Examination of Hatziefstathiou’s seized electronic devices revealed he made numerous purchases from Cameo. Forensic investigation showed Hatziefstathiou contacted several different celebrities through the Cameo website and on three separate occasions, paid for and received Cameo videos – from Ice-T, Snoop Dogg and another individual. Hatziefstathiou then took the original Cameo videos, removed the Cameo watermark, and then superimposed his own watermark overtop the video.
“Evidence shows that Nikolaos Hatziefstathiou will use any means to create his false narrative. He will go to any length to do so, trading on the well-earned reputations of a national television producer and a print correspondent, forging government documents, paying to obtain statements from celebrities to create a story for his website, and concocting a racially charged email,” said District Attorney Kat Copeland. “To quote Benjamin Franklin, ‘It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.’ Creating an article full of lies, Nikolaos Hatziefstathiou attempted to destroy the reputation of hard-working people who come to this courthouse every day to serve their community. Hatziefstathiou chose to falsely attribute horrific, racial slurs to good, hard-working probation officers, exploiting the real pain that minorities face every day, all in an effort to create racial discord. In one fell swoop, he attempted to decimate years of well-earned, good reputations. Some elected officials and politicians jumped on Hatziefstathiou’s bandwagon, knowing these claims may be false and were willing to believe the very worst about people without a shred of evidence. The fact that they then stood on the county courthouse steps criticizing our innocent county employees is a testament to how little people value the truth. I sincerely hope that the true story about what happened here would receive the same amount of publicity that his crimes did because the hard-working, honest employees of this county deserve nothing less – in fact they deserve an apology.”
CRIMINAL CHARGES, AND ANY DISCUSSION THEREOF, ARE MERELY ALLEGATIONS AND ALL DEFENDANTS ARE PRESUMED INNOCENT UNTIL AND UNLESS PROVEN GUILTY.