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LOS ANGELES – A Northern California nurse’s assistant was arrested this morning on federal cyberstalking and hacking charges related to harassment and threats targeting television personality Kristen Jenner, members of her family and two assistants.
Christina Elizabeth Bankston, 36, of Newark, California, was arrested at her residence Thursday morning by special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Bankston was arrested pursuant to a 15-count indictment that was returned by a federal grand jury on July 26 and unsealed today. Bankston is scheduled to make her first appearance Friday morning in United States District Court in Oakland.
“This defendant is charged with stalking her victims over six months,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “The defendant’s criminal conduct included hacking personal accounts, impersonating her victims, extortion, and ‘swatting.’ This case illustrates that stalking is a very serious criminal offense. Such conduct can put lives in danger, cause considerable stress and anxiety to victims, and consume considerable law enforcement resources to respond to the false emergency calls. We take seriously the defendant's reckless and outrageous electronic intrusion into the private lives of the victims, and will prosecute such conduct to the fullest extent of the law.”
Most of the stalking and hacking was conducted anonymously while Bankston was in Northern California and consisted of her sending large numbers of text messages and e-mails, as well as making harassing phone calls, according to the indictment. Bankston allegedly used a variety of electronic means that caused or were intended to cause substantial emotional distress to the victims and their families.
“The defendant in this case went to great lengths to stalk and even impersonate her victims to concoct disturbing scenarios that could have put lives in danger,” said Deirdre Fike, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “The violations alleged are egregious and the criminal charges should serve as a warning to anyone contemplating similar behavior targeting victims, whether they are celebrities or not.”
According to the indictment, among other things, Bankston:
· made multiple phone calls in which she impersonated Kristen Jenner, some of which involved false claims that Kristen Jenner had cancer and needed help, and one in which Bankston falsely told law enforcement that a family member was attempting to commit suicide at Kristen Jenner's residence;
· sent numerous electronic messages to Kristen Jenner, in which Bankston claimed to be tracking Kristen Jenner and to have put tracking devices on Kristen Jenner’s vehicle, with some messages specifically referencing that Bankston was stalking Kristen Jenner and her family;
· sent harassing and threatening text messages to Caitlyn Jenner;
· gained unauthorized access to Kristen Jenner’s iCloud account, which allowed Bankston to impersonate Kristen Jenner in text messages to Caitlyn Jenner and one of Kristen Jenner’s children, some of which Bankston later threatened to release publically;
· hacked into the email account of another member of the Jenner family;
· made Internet postings that published telephone numbers for Kristen Jenner, two family members and a friend;
· gained unauthorized access to Kristen Jenner’s Instagram account and publicly posted comments under Kristen Jenner's name and likeness that include disparaging comments about a member of Jenner’s family; and
· falsely told law enforcement that someone was going to Kristen Jenner's residence to commit a massacre.
Bankston specifically is charged with six counts of stalking, one count for each victim discussed in the indictment – Kristen Jenner, Caitlyn Jenner, two of Kristen Jenner assistants and two unnamed Jenner family members. The indictment further charges four counts of computer hacking, one count of extortion by threat targeting one of Kristen Jenner’s assistants, and four counts of aggravated identity theft related to the computer hacking offenses.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
Each of the cyberstalking and computer hacking offenses carries a statutory maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. The aggravated identity theft charge carries a mandatory two-year consecutive sentence.
This case is being investigated by the FBI.