A Santee woman who was victimized in an elaborate catfish scheme is finally telling her story in an exclusive interview with NBC 7.
Tiffany Watkins describes the moment she learned about the plot to take her life, hatched by Brian Curtis Hile, according to a federal complaint.
“I just remember being in shock. I started crying. It was scary,” Watkins said Tuesday. “The scariest thing I’ve been through."
Nine years ago, Watkins’ private photobucket was hacked and some of her personal pictures spread across the Internet. From there, she said fake profiles were created and used by complete strangers.
Michigan resident Hile was one of those people who was duped into an online relationship with South African woman who looked like Watkins.
It turns out a man was pretending to be Watkins in a practice known as catfishing.
“I never met him. Never talked to him,” Watkins said of Hile.
But that didn’t stop Hile from hopping a bus from Fremont, Michigan to San Diego in 2011, according to federal investigators. He was looking to exact revenge against Watkins and her boyfriend because he thought they may have had something to do with the hoax.
The federal complaint notes Hile told his brother he planned to "kill or harm" Watkins and her boyfriend.
According to the complaint, Hile showed his brother he already had a backpack with zip ties and duct tape inside.
It was after Hile and his brother stopped at an El Cajon Walmart to pick up mace, rope, a knife and other things that the brother called police.
Hile was sentenced to five years in federal prison in 2013.
“As soon as he has a little freedom I don’t know how not to be worried about that," Watkins said.
Meanwhile she is still fighting against people pretending to be her online. It's the reason she's started Tiffanywatkins.org.
“Parents with their daughters just really I think, young girls especially, need to realize what can happen. I think everyone should be more aware," she said.
She’s also hoping she can work to strengthen online impersonation laws in the future.