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Press Release

Naval Captain Charged with Cyberstalking

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of California

For Further Information, Contact:
Assistant U. S. Attorney Sabrina L. Fève (619) 546-6786    

SAN DIEGO – U.S. Navy Capt. Theodore E. Essenfeld was arraigned in federal court today on an indictment charging him with cyberstalking a civilian woman.

According to the indictment, over an 18-month period, Essenfeld registered fake Facebook, LinkedIn, email, and cellular phone accounts using the woman’s name, biographical information, and photographs without her knowledge or consent. Essenfeld posted erotic and sexually-explicit content to the Facebook account, including photos and videos of the woman that she had previously privately shared with him, as well as graphic media files, or “memes.”

Essenfeld also used the imposter Facebook account to engage with Facebook-related dating services, which falsely made it appear that the woman was seeking dates, the indictment said. The imposter LinkedIn account that Essenfeld created in the woman’s name falsely advertised her as professional pole dancer.

“The indictment alleges a disturbing campaign of betrayed trust, harassment, and intimidation,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “This Office is committed to protecting victims of cyberstalking and holding perpetrators accountable for malicious internet activity.” Grossman thanked the prosecution team and Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents for their excellent work on this case.

“The alleged behavior outlined in this indictment is reprehensible,” said Special Agent in Charge Joshua Flowers of the NCIS Southwest Field Office. “NCIS and our law enforcement partners remain committed to fully investigating and rooting out criminality within the ranks that threatens Department of the Navy readiness.”

This case was investigated by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service with assistance provided by the Department of Justice’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section.

If you or someone you know has experienced cyberstalking by an active duty service member, please contact the following anonymous tip lines: (Navy and Marines), (Army), and (Air Force), or call the Department of Defense Hotline at (800) 424-9098. Victims of cyberstalking by non-active duty members should contact local law enforcement or the FBI or HSI field office.


DEFENDANT                                               Case Number 23cr0177-RSH                                              

Theodore E. Essenfeld                                    Age: 51                                   Chula Vista, CA


Cyberstalking – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 2261A(2)(B)

Maximum penalty: Five years in prison and $250,000 fine


Naval Criminal Investigative Service

*The charges and allegations contained in an indictment or complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty. 

Updated February 6, 2023

Press Release Number: CAS23-0206-Essenfeld