A former Seattle, Washington information technology professional was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 30 months in prison and three years of supervised release for conducting cyberstalking and threat campaigns against multiple victims, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. JOEL KURZYNSKI, 39, was also ordered to pay $37,682 in restitution to the victims. At the sentencing hearing U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik noted that some strike terror with a gun or a bomb, but in this case KURZYNSKI “terrorized with a smart phone and a computer…. Cyberstalking and terrorizing people like this is a violent crime and there will be prison sentences.”
“This defendant tormented his victims through death threats, the creation of fake dating profiles, and waves of ceaseless harassment,” said U.S. Attorney Hayes. “He cruelly exploited his computer skills and his knowledge of these victims to make them fear for their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Such conduct cannot be tolerated and will be aggressively prosecuted by the Department of Justice.”
In September 2018, KURZYNSKI pleaded guilty to two counts of cyberstalking. According to records filed in the case, KURZYNSKI engaged in an extensive and rapidly escalating cyberstalking campaign that targeted two individuals known to him. The online campaign involved — among other things — death threats, body shaming, and hate speech. Beginning in March 2017, KURZYNSKI orchestrated numerous spam phone calls to Victim 1. The conduct soon escalated to fake dating profiles wherein KURZYNSKI portrayed Victim 1 as seeking sadomasochistic or underage relationships. These profiles contained photographs of Victim 1 and his contact information, resulting in solicitations and harassing messages directed toward Victim 1 from multiple strangers. KURZYNSKI then sent several anonymous death threats to Victim 1, including the threat, “faggot. Time to die.” At one point, KURZYNSKI impersonated a journalist and contacted Victim 1, claiming that an upcoming article would levy sexual misconduct allegations against Victim 1 related to Victim 1’s work with a non-profit youth organization.
KURZYSNKI also admitted that in November 2017, he began registering Victim 2 for numerous weight loss and suicide prevention programs, resulting in a wave of calls and emails from entities such as Overeaters Anonymous, Weight Watchers, Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention, and others. Within weeks, KURZYNSKI started sending anonymous death threats to Victim 2, many of which referenced Victim 2’s work address. One threat claimed that he was waiting for her in the lobby, and another that said, “Looking forward to seeing you today and how much you bleed. Don’t go to the bathroom alone.”
Speaking to the court today, the victims talked about how the harassment impacted them – forcing one to change jobs and move from the city. “Over a year I lived in extreme fear for my life and my character,” the victim said. The second victim told the court how her work performance suffered, because she knew her stalker was someone at her place of employment. She told the court that on her birthday she arrived at work to an email that read “Are you ready to die today?” The defendant targeted her simply because she had asked for help with her scanner and went to KURZYNSKI’s supervisor when he refused to assist her.
KURZYNSKI spoke to his victims saying, “for what I have put you through I cannot apologize enough. I have no excuse. There is no justification.”
Victims of cyberstalking campaigns such as this often may be hesitant to come forward. The Justice Department encourages individuals who may be the victims of similar schemes to contact their local law enforcement agencies to report this conduct.
The U.S. Secret Service’s Seattle Field Office investigated the case with substantial assistance from the Seattle Police Department and King County Prosecutor’s Office. Trial Attorney Frank Lin of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Francis Franze-Nakamura of the Western District of Washington are prosecuting the case.