SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Hawaii man accused of tormenting a Utah family for more than a year by using the internet to send more than 500 people to their house for unwanted services including food deliveries, repairs, tow trucks, locksmiths, plumbers and prostitutes pleaded guilty Monday to one count of cyberstalking.
Loren Okamura, 44, entered the pleas during a video conference hearing based out of U.S. District Court in Utah that capped off a case that prosecutors called an “extreme” example of the darker and seedier side of modern technology.
Okamura’s online stalking in 2018-2019 targeted a father and his adult daughter who live in a quiet, middle-class suburb of Salt Lake City, prosecutors alleged. He sent the woman threatening messages and posted her picture and address online, authorities said.
The Gilmore family had to enhance security around the house and lived in fear of the next unwanted person who would arrive at the house, day or night, their attorney Nathan Crane said.
Utah police went to the North Salt Lake house more than 80 times over a four-month period from November 2018 to February 2019, leading the family to post a sign in the driveway that alerted anyone coming to provide services that it was a scam and to instead report it to police.
The Gilmores are relieved that Okamura accepted responsibility for his actions that took a major toll on them, Crane said.
“Mr. Okamura was cowardly hiding behind his computer and just hounding these people,” Crane said. “Since Mr. Okamura was arrested, this family has finally had some peace, peace they didn’t have for the 18 months when he was stalking them.”
Crane said Okamura targeted the Gilmores because he felt “slighted” by a member of the family, though he declined to provide more specifics.
Prosecutors agreed to drop two additional charges — interstate threats and transporting people for prostitution — as part of an agreement that calls for him to get credit for the eight months he’s spent in jail since his November arrest at a Honolulu supermarket. The deal calls for three years of supervised release and a return to Hawaii.
Okamura is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 5.
He didn’t offer any apologies or explanations during Monday’s hearing, but spoke up to request that language in the agreement that said he sent drug dealers to the house be removed. The judge and attorneys agreed.
“It’s not like drug dealers are advertising,” Okamura said. “It just occurred out of the other services that I had sent there, mainly the prostitutes. I never intentionally sent drug dealers.”
Investigators began honing in on Okamura as the suspect in January 2019 when the Gilmores were granted a protective injunction from him in Utah, but it took investigators until October to gather enough evidence to charge Okamura because of his use of encryption and apps that made him appear anonymous, prosecutors said. He wasn’t arrested until late November because police struggled to find him because he didn’t have a permanent address or job and authorities said he was “savvy” with technology used to mask his phone’s location.
Prosecutors have said they have records from Okamura’s cellphone and Apple ID to support the charges.
Vanessa Ramos, his federal public defender in Utah, declined to comment after the hearing.
Okamura’s federal public defender in Hawaii, Sharron Rancourt, said in November at his initial appearance in Honolulu that he was mourning his wife but declined to elaborate.
Okamura also sent the woman extensive and repeated texts and voicemails, authorities said. One email told the woman she should “sleep with one eye open and keep looking over her shoulder.”