LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Federal authorities on Thursday announced the arrest of a Northern California woman they accused of keeping up a little too closely with the Kardashians, cyberstalking and hacking TV personality Kris Jenner, her family and two assistants.
Christina Elizabeth Bankston, 36, of Newark, California was arrested at her residence Thursday morning by special agents with the FBI.
Bankston is a nurse’s aide, officials said. She was arrested pursuant to a 15-count indictment that was returned by a federal grand jury July 26 and unsealed Wednesday. Bankston is scheduled to make her first appearance Friday morning in U.S. District Court in Oakland.
“This defendant is charged with stalking her victims over six months,” said U.S. 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.”
Authorities said most of the stalking and hacking was conducted anonymously.
Bankston lives in the Bay area and consisted of her sending large numbers of text messages and e-mails, as well as making harassing phone calls, according to the indictment.
Moreover, Bankston used a variety of electronic means that caused or were intended to cause substantial emotional distress to the victims and their families, authorities said.
“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 impersonated Jenner, pretended to have cancer and needed help, pretended to threaten suicide, claimed to have put tracking devices on Jenner’s vehicle, sent harassing and threatening message to Caitlyn Jenner, gained access to Kris Jenner’s iCloud, hacked into Kardashian email accounts, posted bogus comments under Jenner’s Instagram account, and allegedly told law enforcement someone was headed to Jenner’s home to commit mass murder.
The Justice Department says Bankston specifically is charged with six counts of stalking, one count for each victim discussed in the indictment – Kris(ten) Jenner, Caitlyn Jenner, two 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 Jenner’s assistants and four counts of aggravated identity theft related to the computer hacking offenses.
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.