A former National Security Agency employee was hit with federal cyberstalking charges Thursday for allegedly using his tech-savvy skills to wage psychological warfare on an ex-girlfriend and her family for nearly two years. Federal prosecutors say he cyberstalked and sent at least 400 harassing messages to over 30 individuals linked to his ex-girlfriend through burner cellphone numbers and anonymous email accounts, at one point even sending a fake obituary.
While the unnamed girlfriend repeatedly sought to stop the alleged harassment by filing for orders of protection, those efforts were consistently stymied by his use of cybertools often used on the dark web to mask one’s identity, prosecutors say.
The end result was a campaign of obsessive harassment and chilling threats that one would expect more from a horror film than real life, according to a nearly 30-page criminal affidavit detailing the alleged cyberstalking.
Between November 2017 and July 2018, Brendon Spann, a current employee of the Department of Education, bombarded his ex-girlfriend, her best friend, her co-workers, her sisters, and her sister’s co-workers with harassing messages and threats after the two broke-up, prosecutors say. Spann is said to have gone so far as creating a Tumblr webpage devoted to hating her, physically chasing her down twice, and crafting fake obituaries of her.
After the ex-girlfriend blocked his number in November 2017 and told him not to contact her, Spann allegedly turned to online harassment.
“How you gonna throw away someone and act like they don’t exist? You can’t do that. You act like I’m garbage,” Spann allegedly wrote to his ex in an email from an anonymous account. “Remember when you spent your tax refund on me? That’s love, that doesn’t go away… Remember the Mariah Carey ‘Forever’ song? You said forever and sent that song, and now you’re saying never.”
Spann allegedly tried to enter his ex’s car later that month while she was inside. When she drove away, Spann tried to follow her car on foot, according to the affidavit. The ex filed a protective order against him in December, but the order was later denied due to a lack of evidence. Spann then allegedly started to contact his ex’s sisters and best friend in January 2018.
“She is being watched for her own safety from the outside world. Any husband would do that for their wife,” Spann allegedly texted the best friend. “It’s all completely above board and legal, so there’s no need for you to get excited about it.”
Spann was banned later that month from Virginia Tech’s campus, where his ex is employed. He allegedly tried to use his Education Department job to have the ban lifted, but his supervisor intervened and claimed he had no reason for going onto the campus. The ex filed another protective order against him in February, but it was again denied due to a lack of evidence. Prosecutors say Spann used the Tor network, a tool often used by cybercriminals to mask their activity, and “other obfuscation websites” so as not to leave a trail.
Between February and June 2018, Spann’s alleged harassment is said to have broadened to include his ex’s co-workers—he even messaged the mother of one co-worker at one point, according to the affidavit. Spann allegedly texted them messages claiming that his ex was sleeping with a co-worker, and declared that her “life will come to an end” when he kills her in her car.
“I have an extensive plan how I will hide in the backseat of her car and get her at the right time,” he allegedly wrote.
The cyberthreats carried over into the real world in August, prosecutors say, when Spann ran into his ex and her best friend while they were shopping. He allegedly chased them down to a parking lot, where he fled after being confronted by the best friend. Spann then allegedly sent the best friend an email hinting that he had a gun and wanted to “put it to the side of your head and light your ass up.” In response, the ex’s best friend sought an order of protection, which was later overturned due to a lack of evidence.
Later that year and into early 2019, Spann is said to have once again escalated his alleged harassment campaign, casting the net even wider to include the co-workers of his ex’s sisters. As part of an alleged smear campaign, he allegedly sent them emails calling his ex a “slut” and a “very sick person,” even distributing a list of the sexual activities he claimed his ex was involved in. He is also said to have sent a link to a Tumblr website devoted to hating his ex to her former supervisor.
By March, Spann allegedly sent out fake obituaries for his ex to her sisters and her sister’s co-workers, claiming his ex had been “gunned down.”
“She was a known hoe and homewrecker… No one will miss her. May she burn in hell,” he allegedly wrote in the “obituary.”
Anonymously and posing as someone named “Mike,” Spann then allegedly began directly threatening his ex in messages to her co-workers, at one point prompting her place of work to close down for the day and have employees work from home after he allegedly threatened to “shoot the place up.”
He later allegedly set an exact date for when he vowed to kill his ex-girlfriend, prosecutors say.
“My current plan is to kill [Victim] on July 24th of this year. I am still considering what I will use as the murder weapon. I don’t want her to reach the age of 28,” he allegedly wrote. “You can save this email for that time. You can’t save her anyway. If God allows me to take her life, then it shall be done.”
According to the affidavit, Spann continued to harass those connected to his ex between April and July. He is currently being held without bond, with his next trial date slated for next week.
Efforts to contact Spann’s public defender were unsuccessful. The Department of Education did not return The Daily Beast’s request for comment at the time of publishing. The NSA said it had no comment.