INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- What started as a friend request on Facebook for an Indiana teen spiraled into a series of death threats against her, her family, Indiana universities and even a business in Fishers. Now a 21-year-old in North Carolina is charged with the crime.
Court documents show it started with a meeting on Facebook in 2012 between the then 13-year-old Indiana girl and Shamonique Ferguson. It quickly turned into more. Investigators said a dispute online turned into stalking and harassment that spanned four years, even after the teen changed her phone number and blocked her online. Things escalated further in 2016.
"The defendant began to use that very means of their initial meeting, the internet, to then terrorize and wreak real havoc on the victim's life," assistant U.S. attorney Kristina Korobov said.
Court documents show Ferguson sent the victim bodily waste through the mail and made death threats against her, her family and the business where she worked. Her father was sent packages with sexually explicit photos claiming to show the victim. Starting in January, investigators said Ferguson contacted four universities in Indiana claiming the victim threatened to attack the schools.
"The victim wound up being hospitalized because the defendant had made these threats so she had to be detained to determine whether there's any validity," Korobov said.
Investigators said there were also more than two dozen false emergency calls to the victim's home in Fishers, everything from a fire to an amber alert tip that the victim was in contact with a missing teen in Tennessee. Korobov said it was a false report to the National Human Trafficking hotline that got the U.S. Attorney's Office involved.
"We believe according to the complaint that there are a number of acts that we can tie to her and additionally as the complaint lays out there are times when the defendant would try to enlist other people to engage in criminal acts at her behest," Korobov said.
Prosecutors said Ferguson is facing charges of extortion, mail threats and interstate stalking. They're crimes that can leave a lasting impact on any victim.
"If you choose the anonymity of a keyboard as a way to try to get back at an individual or to try to ruin someone else's life there are penalties for that," Korobov said.
Court documents show in interviews with investigators, Ferguson said she believed the victim had written false things about her online and that's why she "attacked her." If convicted, Ferguson faces up to 15 years in prison. She's scheduled to appear in court in North Carolina Tuesday.