A man in Delaware county, Pennsylvania is facing multiple charges after it was discovered he allegedly impersonated a “good Morning America” producer and New York Times reporter in order to obtain government documents. He also fabricated a ‘racism’ story by faking a racist government email which had many politicians jumping on the bandwagon.
District Attorney Kat Copeland announced Wednesday that Nikolaos Tzima Hatziefstathiou, also known as “Nik the Hat,” has been charged with creating a false, racist government email, identity theft and tampering.
Nikolaos Tzima Hatziefstathiou appears to be a national political and tabloid reporter, as well as a media entrepreneur, the founder of YC News/Original Media Group Corp.
In reality, the 25-year-old from Broomall faked the premises of articles, doctored government documents, and impersonated members of the national press, according to a statement by Delaware County District Attorney Katayoun Copeland.
Her office has filed more than 10 criminal charges against Hatziefstathiou, including tampering with public records, attempted theft, receiving stolen property, and making unsworn falsification to authorities.
“Evidence shows that Nikolaos Hatziefstathiou will use any means to create his false narrative,” Copeland said.
In at least one case, those narratives got traction.
On May 25, YC News published a story with the headline, “Racist high-ranking official tells friend he’ll have “airtight job security so long as there’s a n—er” in town,” claiming to show a pattern of racist emails sent among employees of the Delaware County Adult Probation and Parole Department.
After the story was published, local lawmakers held a press conference to condemn the alleged comments and wrote a letter to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, asking him to investigate. The Delaware County Times covered the event.
“Hatziefstathiou chose to falsely attribute horrific, racial slurs to good, hard-working probation officers, exploiting the real pain that minorities face every day, all in an effort to create racial discord,” said Copeland. “Some elected officials and politicians jumped on Hatziefstathiou’s bandwagon, knowing these claims may be false and were willing to believe the very worst about people without a shred of evidence.”
After the article posted, Delaware County Information Technology tried and failed to find the email described in it in the county’s email system, said Copeland.
A search warrant executed against Hatziefstathiou’s residence a month later turned up emails Hatziefstathiou himself had received from his probation officers, and evidence that he had doctored those communications, redacting portions, and adding the racist language, according to the district attorney. Hatziefstathiou has previously been convicted of false reports to law enforcement and harassment and had served probation for those offenses.
Charles Peruto, who is representing Hatziefstathiou, said the district attorney has not shown that his client was the person who actually falsified the email or purchased and altered videos — just that it happened on a computer associated with him. The computer belongs to Hatziefstathiou’s employer, American Media Inc., which publishes Us Weekly, RadarOnline, and other verticals, said Peruto.
In addition to allegedly falsifying the email, the District Attorney’s Office identified several other potentially criminal offenses or hoaxes:
- Detectives found a Taser in his home that belonged to a local police department, which had been marked as stolen.
- In April, Hatziefstathiou allegedly impersonated a producer from “Good Morning America” and a reporter from the New York Times when seeking information from the District Attorney’s Office.
- The DA’s Office alleges Hatziefstathiou forged paperwork to receive a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation specialty plate, indicating he worked for a media company.
- On more than one occasion, Hatziefstathiou purchased a video of celebrities available through the website Cameo, which allows fans to buy personalized messages from celebrities, and ran them as news items, breaking Cameo’s terms of service.
The Delco Times elaborated:
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.
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.