MEDIA COURTHOUSE — A Marple man who serves as editor of an online news site has been charged with numerous felony and misdemeanor counts for allegedly creating a fake racist email attributed to a Delaware County Adult Probation and Parole officer, posing as a reporter and producer for other news organizations, and other offenses.

Nikolaos Tzima Hatziefstathiou, also known as “Nik the Hat,” 25, of the 700 block of Cedar Grove Road in Broomall, is charged with three counts of tampering with public records, all felonies of the third degree. Hatziefstathiou serves as editor in chief of the online news site YC News.

He is also charged with three counts of tampering with records or identification and two counts of identity theft, forgery, attempted theft by deception, theft of property, receiving stolen property and prohibited offensive weapons, all first-degree misdemeanors, and four counts of unsworn falsification to authorities, misdemeanors of the second degree.

Bogus email stirs political waters in Delco

A lengthy affidavit of probable cause written by Delaware County Criminal Investigation Division Detective Edmond Pisani Jr. states that Hatziefstathiou falsely claimed to be a reporter from the New York Times and a Good Morning America producer in emails to the Delaware County District Attorney’s Public Relations Office in April; forged a signature to obtain special news media license plates for his vehicle; and doctored an email from his probation officer to appear as though a supervisor in that office used racial slurs when giving advice to an applicant.

The affidavit also states that Hatziefstathiou was in possession of a Taser device and two firing charges that had been reported stolen from a local police department. He additionally paid rap moguls Ice-T and Snoop Dogg using a service known as “Cameo” to provide scripted statements about a local man sentenced to life in prison in 1980, according to the affidavit, then removed the Cameo watermark, replacing it with the YC News logo to make it appear as though it was part of a legitimate interview.

“Evidence will show that (Hatziefstathiou) will use any means to create a false narrative,” said District Attorney Katayoun Copeland during a press conference announcing the charges Wednesday. “He will go to any length to do so. He will trade on the well-earned reputation of a national television producer; he will trade on the well-earned reputation of a national news correspondent; he will forge government documents; he will pay to obtain statements from celebrities to create stories for his website; and he will concoct a racially charged email.”

YC News posted an image of the purported 2015 email May 25 with a story, but did not include a byline indicating who had written the piece.

“Good morning,” the redacted email begins, “you don’t have to worry about job security … ROFL … so long as there’s a n---- in our county, you will have a full slate. Just make sure he registers as a (redacted) before applying, they’re extremely strict about that. Can’t have a bunch of ganbangs loving (redacted) in here … ha. (sic)”

YC News indicated in its story that the alleged email came to light as part of a request under the state’s Right to Know Law to inspect electronic communications between all Delaware County law enforcement agencies.

The story, which was still available online Wednesday, claims the email was “between several county officials and a current department supervisor, where they accidentally carbon copied a probationer.”

County Council spokesperson Adrienne Marofsky issued a statement in May indicating the county and courts were made aware of “an alleged email attributed to its employees by someone identifying himself as a journalist,” but were unable to find a record of the email existing.

The affidavit states that Sgt. Kenneth Bellis asked Delaware County Technology Director Jeffrey O’Connor to search every email sent through the county between 2014 and 2019. Even looking through deleted emails, O’Connor was unable to locate any email containing the language in the one used for the YC News story, according to the affidavit.

Hatziefstathiou, identified as YC News’ Publisher and National News Director on its website, previously provided a statement from Anthony Loro, Senior Executive Editor of YC News’ parent company, Original Media Group Corporation, indicating YC News stands by its reporting.

Calls to YC News for comment Wednesday were not returned.

Copeland said Wednesday that Hatziefstathiou was on probation for harassing his neighbors and making false reports in May 2015 by sending escorts from the website Backpage.com to their house and then calling 911 anonymously to report suspicious vehicles.

Hatziefstathiou allegedly called one of the escorts and asked, “You n--- get in trouble?” according to the affidavit. He also stated, “I like to watch n---- get locked up” and threatened to “slit your throat if I see you again,” according to the affidavit.

Pisani spoke with Probation and Parole Supervisor Jeff Roney in June, who confirmed Hatziefstathiou had been released from supervision in December 2018. Roney indicated he would communicate with Hatziefstathiou’s attorneys via email and Hatziefstathiou would be CC’d in replies. Roney said the signature line in the alleged racist email looked much like the one he uses, according to the affidavit.

Copeland said a search warrant was served at Hatziefstathiou’s home June 24 and several devices were removed, including an Apple iPhone and Macbook. Also found was a paper copy of an email Roney had sent regarding a probation violation that matches the format of the “racist” email, according to the affidavit.

Copeland said CID Detective Christopher Tankelewicz found the falsified email on the Macbook and was able to deconstruct its creation over the afternoon of May 25. This included creating “black lines” to superimpose over the sending and receiving names on the email, as well as the creation of a new text body – the “racist email” posted with the YC News story – using several online tools.

Detectives also allegedly found a Taser X26 in Hatziefstathiou’s bedroom identified as being the property of a local, unnamed police department. The affidavit indicates the Taser, purchased by the department in 2011, had been discharged as recently as June 29. The police department had logged it as missing from inventory and identified it as stolen, according to the affidavit.

A forensic examination of the seized devices also contained portions of emails Hatziefstathiou allegedly sent to the District Attorney’s Public Relations Office throughout late April of this year purporting to be from New York Times reporter Liam Stack and ABC producer Stephanie Wash.

Those emails, from Microsoft Outlook addresses, referred to “vast amounts” of documents and video surveillance in a “decade-long scheme” involving law enforcement and county officials. The bogus Wash and Stack emails allegedly sought a “first comment” on a story Hatziefstathiou was working on, as well as police reports about harassment charges against Marple police for alleged stalking and harassment.

Pisani contacted Wash and Stack, who both confirmed they did not send the emails and do not know the people involved, according to the affidavit.

Pisani confirmed both Outlook addresses had been logged into from a unique Internet Protocol address maintained by Verizon at Hatziefstathiou’s Cedar Grove Road address, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit also claims Hatziefstathiou forged another man’s signature on Pennsylvania Department of Transportation forms to obtain a specialty license plate identifying him as being employed full time by a news agency. The man, a former YC News contributor, told investigators he was never Hatziefstathiou’s employer, as stated on the form, and had not worked for the publication for some time, according to the affidavit. The name was also misspelled and did not match the man’s signature on his driver’s license, the affidavit states.

In the case of the Cameo videos, the affidavit states that Pisani spoke with a representative from the company’s legal department, who advised that removing the Cameo logo and using the videos for any commercial or promotional purposes is strictly prohibited. The videos are strictly for personal use only, according to the affidavit.

A search of the Cameo website found there were numerous other videos – all apparently self-shot by the celebrities – in which they are wearing the same clothing in the same setting, indicating numerous personal message videos are shot at the same time.

Defense attorney Chuck Peruto Jr. said Hatziefstathiou is out of the state but will surrender to authorities by 1 p.m. Thursday. Peruto has denied the charges against his client and said there is no proof Hatziefstathiou was the one who used the electronic devices identified in the investigation.

“We’ve been saying this since the investigation began: Where’s the proof that Nik did this?” said Peruto. “We understand the Delaware County District Attorney’s office has it in for this man and wants to prosecute him badly, but they can’t prove that he’s the one who did these things.”

The affidavit indicates Hatziefstathiou was identified as the possessor and “sole user” of the Macbook used to create and post the racist email and that he used his iPhone to create, send and receive emails using the names of legitimate reporters.

Copeland said that if convicted, Hatziefstathiou faces substantial prison time.

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