The FBI arrested a Long Island man accused of cyberstalking and threatening Geneseo’s Sigma Kappa sorority during the fall 2017 semester.
Twenty-three-year-old Thomas Traficante, the alleged ex-boyfriend of one of the SK sorority sisters, has been accused of sending a series of threatening text messages to his ex-girlfriend and her sorority sisters over the course of the month of November 2017.
The first text was sent on Nov. 10 and said “its not safe out there tonight kappas,” according to a Jan. 15 article in the Democrat & Chronicle. The text message was sent to about a dozen of the sisters, some of whom canceled their plans for that night and caused the sorority to postpone a planned event.
Another message was sent out within a day saying, “glad you all mostly took my advice last night, but moving it forward one night doesn’t make kappas or their dates any safer. I mean no harm, im not the threat, but harm is coming,” according to that same article.
The series of text messages that followed deeply disturbed members of the sorority, according to Village Chief of Police Eric Osganian.
“There were some people who were upset that they were getting these messages,” Osganian said. “They didn’t understand even why they were getting them.”
The University Police Department began to investigate the matter after receiving initial complaints, working in collaboration with various local, state and federal agencies.
“We started with some of the initial complaints about what happened, and then from there we were almost like the primary investigative agency,” University Police Inspector Scott Ewanow said. “[UPD worked with] the Village Police Department, the District Attorney’s office, the State Troopers, the New York State Police, the Postal Inspector’s Office and the FBI.”
University Police followed up with a series of emails keeping the campus community updated on the status of the investigation. Meanwhile, inquiry into the source of the phone number, which had a Rochester area code, yielded that it was generated from an online service.
Multiple students attempted to contact the caller, until one student finally received a response from a man who had appeared to change his voice through a device, according to the Democrat & Chronicle.
He claimed that he had been wronged by someone in the Greek community and wanted to bring her harm, according to the Democrat & Chronicle. He also added that he knew he was irrational, had divorced parents and had been prescribed Xanax, the article said.
More text messages arrived on Nov. 17 referring to an event planned by the sorority, termed a “wedding.” The messages said ““im excited for the wedding,” and “hope you dont wear anything that can stain” and “please dont cancel again i want to have fun this time,” the Democrat & Chronicle reports.
Another message was sent the following day claiming that the texter wanted to “create the most amount of turmoil and pain within Greek life” at Geneseo.
Traficante’s former girlfriend had been a target of increasing harassment as well. A week after the initial threats, she discovered that her number had been posted to a prostitution website after she began to receive calls from men seeking sexual services.
Police received a tip that she would be receiving drugs and intercepted a package delivered to her with cocaine. Investigation into the matter revealed she was not involved, even as more drugs were sent to her, including methamphetamine.
Additionally, an individual shot a BB gun pellet at the girl’s family’s home in Long Island on Nov. 20. Nassau County Police approached Traficante and he was arrested by the FBI in December.
Traficante was charged with cyberstalking and threats in federal court in Rochester. He was scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 16 for a bail hearing and he is currently under the custody of United States Marshals in jail, according to Ewanow.
Leaders of the local Sigma Kappa chapter had no comments, but the national chapter released a statement on the matter.
“While we cannot comment on the specifics of the case at SUNY Geneseo, we do want to express our gratitude to law enforcement for their involvement and guidance in this matter,” the statement read. “The health, safety and well-being of every one of our sisters are our absolute priority.”
Thirteen percent of women in college are stalked during a six to nine month period, according to statistics from John Carroll University. People between the ages of 18-24 experience the highest rate of stalking.
New York State law classifies stalking as a Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine, according to Ewanow. Federal stalking laws punish stalking more harshly.
“Usually it ends up being the charge of another crime associated with the stalking and not the stalking [itself], plus the New York stalking charges need to be improved I think,” Ewanow said.
In cases of stalking, it’s important for evidence to be well documented, according to Ewanow.
“If you think you are the victim of stalking, immediately report it,” Ewanow said. “It’s important to save messages with screenshots. Those can absolutely be used for investigative purposes later.”
Editor-in-chief Annie Renaud contributed reporting to this article.