A Michigan man has been found guilty of stalking a San Diego woman whose photograph was unknowingly used in a “catfish”-style online dating hoax.
According to the office of U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy, a San Diego federal jury has found Brian Curtis Hile, 29, of Fremont, Mich., guilty of interstate stalking.
FBI officials and investigators from the Computer and Technology Crime Hi-Tech Response Team (CATCH) say Hile traveled to San Diego from Michigan in August 2011 with the intent to kill a woman he only knew from online photographs.
Evidence at trial showed that Hile engaged in an online relationship for years with someone he believed to be a woman seen in photographs. Over time, Hile exchanged romantic communications and explicit photographs with his online love.
However, the woman on the other end of those romantic cyber exchanges wasn’t a woman at all.
Investigators say Hile’s online love was actually a man living in South Africa, pretending to be this woman. The relationship was nothing more than a “catfishing” hoax, much like the fabricated online romances often depicted on the hit MTV show, “Catfish.”
When Hile learned the true identity of his online love, investigators say he became enraged and initiated his own “investigation” to find the woman in the photos used in the hoax.
Officials say the woman, essentially, had nothing to do with the dating scam and didn't know anything about Hile. Years earlier her online Photo Bucket account had been compromised, resulting in her photographs being stolen and spread over the internet.
Evidence revealed that Hile conducted an extensive online search to identify the San Diego woman in the photos, sifting through chat rooms and online gaming blogs to track her down.
After a diligent search, investigators say Hile identified the woman and also obtained her personal information, as well as information on her boyfriend, family and friends.
He then set off for San Diego in search of the victim.
In August 2011, Hile was arrested in San Diego, within miles of the woman’s home. Investigators say that at the time of his arrest, Hile was in possession of the victim’s address, phone numbers, email addresses, telephone contacts and the names and addresses for schools she had previously attended. Hile even had the contact information for the victim’s favorite restaurant.
Hile had obtained these personal details on the victim by hacking into her email account.
Hile was also in possession of duct tape, zip-ties and a “To Do” list that included additional supplies he needed to get in order to carry out his plan to kill the unsuspecting woman and her boyfriend.
Those supplies on the list included a trench coat, knife and chloroform.
Ultimately, Hile’s plan was foiled by authorities. He arrested and charged with two counts of interstate stalking, and was found guilty this week.
His sentencing is now scheduled for Nov. 22.