DA: Pa. man faked racist email, impersonated national journalists
Nikolaos Tzima Hatziefstathiou, also known as “Nik the Hat.” (Nik Tzima Hatziefstathiou Facebook page)
(Undated) — Online, Nikolaos Tzima Hatziefstathiou, sometimes known as “Nik the Hat,” 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.
Delaware County officials now say they can show just how that email was faked.
“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.
WHYY is the leading public media station serving the Philadelphia region, including Delaware, South Jersey and Pennsylvania. This story originally appeared on WHYY.org.