San Diego Cyber Stalker Brian Curtis Hile - A bizarre case of online romance gone bad (Case Number: 12CR1687JLS)

A 29-year-old Michigan man was sentenced to five years in federal prison last week for interstate stalking in a bizarre case of online romance gone bad. Thats the maximum allowed by law.
Grant Walt (Breaking Bad)
In 2011 Brian Curtis Hile traveled from Michigan to San Diego, intending to kill a woman and her boyfriend after the pair had accidentally gotten caught up in Hile’s virtual love affair.

Hile had been entraped in a “catfishing” scheme. During the sequence of an Internet relationship that lasted a couple of years, Hile exchanged explicit photos and romantic communications with someone he believed to be a woman. When he learned that “she” was in fact a man living in South Africa, Hile became enraged and vowed to find the man who deceived him (and the woman whose images played a role in the deception).

Steve Kim from the San Diego FBI Field Division, a member of the Computer and Technology Crime High-Tech Response Team a multi-agency task force that apprehends and prosecutes criminals who use technology to prey on victims, explained that the woman in this case was a victim twice: when the woman was 18 years old, she took revealing pictures of herself for personal use, never intending for them to be seen publicly. Those photos were later stolen from her online account, which she was aware of. “But she had no idea what was being done with them,” Kim said.

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Avoid Becoming a Victim

Special Agent Steve Kim has seen too many young people—particularly teenage girls—fall victim to cyber crimes like stalking and sextortion, and he urges extreme caution for those who use the Internet and social media sites.

“Young people sometimes don’t understand the gravity of transmitting photos online,” he said. “Once images are out there, through texting, e-mail, or social media, it’s permanent.” The victim in the Brian Hile case, for example, never intended for her photos to become public. But when her online account was hacked, the photos were widely disseminated online. “It’s unlikely she will ever get those images off the Internet,” Kim said.

People should also be aware of the personal information they post on their social media sites, he added. Seemingly harmless information about likes and dislikes and where you go to school can be exploited by hackers and others with nefarious intent.

“Hile used that kind of information to create a dossier that made it easier to hack his victims,” Kim said. “They had posted so much personal information, Hile was able to use it to get even more information.”

Hile’s primary target for revenge was the man who bamboozled him, but South Africa was too far away. So using what Kim described as circular logic”, Hile went after the woman. “He knew she didn’t have anything to do with the romance scam,” Kim said, “but he believed she bore some responsibility. In his mind, the mere fact that those photos were used indicated that she was somehow responsible for what had happened to him.”

As an avid Internet user and computer gamer, Hile was determined to learn the woman’s identity. He conducted an extensive online search and used hacking tools. “Eventually, he was able to hack into her e-mail account,” Kim said, and compiled detailed personal information about the woman and her live-in boyfriend as well as their extended family and friends.

Armed with her address, Hile purchased a bus ticket from Michigan to San Diego to exact his revenge. Fortunately, Hile’s family sensed that he was planning something and alerted authorities, which eventually led to Hile’s detention in San Diego, about a mile from the woman’s residence.

At the time of his arrest, he was in possession of the woman’s address, telephone numbers, and confidential information, such as her favorite restaurant. He also had duct tape, zip ties, and a to-do list that included obtaining a knife and chloroform.

“Had he gotten there,” Kim said, “we are convinced he would have hurt or killed the victims.” Hile was found guilty by a San Diego jury in August 2013.

Kim believes this case should serve as a cautionary tale for others. When it comes to social media sites, he said, “You really have to know the people you are communicating with. If you don’t absolutely know who’s on the other end, you shouldn’t be sending personal information or photographs. The Internet is an amazing thing,” he added, “but it’s also a very scary thing.”

ADDITION: Interstate Stalking Defendant Sentenced to Five Years in Prison

Brian Curtis Hile, a 30-year-old resident of Fremont, Michigan, was sentenced today to the statutory maximum of 60 months in custody for traveling across the country to San Diego to kill two people.

Hile was convicted after a jury trial in August of two counts of interstate stalking. According to court records, Hile traveled to San Diego from Michigan in August 2011 with the intent to kill a female victim and her live-in boyfriend.

Prior to traveling from Michigan to San Diego, Hile engaged in a romantic online relationship with someone he believed to be a woman. During the course of that online relationship, which spanned a couple of years, Hile exchanged romantic communications and explicit photographs.

However, when Hile learned that his online paramour was in fact a man residing in South Africa and that his romance was nothing more than a catfishing scheme, Hile became enraged and initiated what he termed “an investigation” to find the woman in the photographs.

As part of his investigation to identify his targets, Hile conducted an extensive search of the Internet, utilizing chat rooms and online gaming blogs to identify and locate the woman in the photographs. That woman is a resident of San Diego County, who years earlier had her online Photo Bucket account compromised, resulting in her photographs being disseminated over the Internet.

As a result of his diligent research efforts, Hile not only identified the woman in the photographs, but obtained personal information about her as well as her live-in boyfriend, the victims’ family members, and friends. Hile was arrested in San Diego within miles of the victims’ home, after admitting to a family member that he had already been to the victims’ residence but the victims were not home at the time.

At the time of his arrest, Hile was in possession of the victims’ address, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, telephone contacts, contact information for the victims’ favorite restaurant, and the names and addresses for educational institutions that the victims had previously attended. Forensic evidence showed that Hile retrieved the victims’ confidential information by hacking into the victims’ e-mail accounts. Hile was also found in possession of duct tape, zip ties, and a to-do list that included additional supplies he needed to complete his plan to kill the two victims, including a trench coat, knife, and chloroform.

During the sentencing hearing, one of the victims informed the court that even after two years, she still has nightmares on a regular basis that someone is trying to kill her and that she is too afraid to put her name on anything for fear that Hile will find her and her family again.

U.S. District Judge Janis L. Sammartino pronounced the sentence of 60 months’ custody followed by three years of supervised release and ordered Hile to stay away from the victims and the victims’ families and friends.

United States Attorney Laura Duffy said, “Interstate stalkers who intend to harm members of our community will not be tolerated. We would like to thank the Federal Bureau of Investigation, El Cajon Police Department, and San Diego County Sheriff’s Office for their investigation and support of the prosecution of this dangerous individual.”

Criminal Case No. 12CR1687-JLS

Brian Curtis Hile 30 Fremont, Michigan

Summary of Charges
Interstate stalking, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2261A(1).

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