SALT LAKE CITY >> A Hawaiian man who pleaded guilty to cyberstalking a Utah family by sending more than 500 people into their home for unsolicited services such as grocery deliveries, plumbers and prostitutes was sentenced today to three years and custody Doomed to comply with strict restrictions while using the Internet.
Loren Okamura, 45, apologized when he appeared from his home in Hawaii during a videoconference hearing in the U.S. District Court in Utah. Okamura said he was struggling with depression after his wife died when the cyberstalking occurred. He was credited towards serving nearly a year in prison, which he spent several months after accepting a plea deal before his release in October 2020.
“I want to apologize for my actions,” said Okamura. “These events are not in my character. I want to close my chapter and start a new chapter. “
Prosecutors called the case an “extreme” example of the darker and seedier side of modern technology.
Okamura’s 2018-2019 online stalking targeted a father and adult daughter who live in a quiet, middle-class suburb of Salt Lake City, prosecutors alleged. The authorities said he had sent threatening messages to the woman and put her picture and address online. In an email, the woman was told to “sleep with one eye open and keep looking over her shoulder.”
The cyber harassment was “widespread and appalling,” said Karin Fojtik, a prosecutor who is working on the case for the US attorney in Utah. She opposed the loosening of strict rules that Okamura must follow in order to use the Internet.
Fojtik said it was “a small inconvenience for Mr. Okamura compared to the harassment he put on the victim”.
U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups agreed while allowing Okamura’s probation officers to adjust internet restrictions to allow Okamura to do some of the basic things required to function in society.
“This was a serious crime and had a serious impact on the victims,” said Waddoups. “It was behavior that was not only against the law, but also against the norms of society.”
The victims, the Gilmore family, had to increase security around the house and lived in fear of the next unwanted person who would arrive at the house day and night, her lawyer Nathan Crane said.
The Utah Police Department walked the North Salt Lake home more than 80 times in a four-month period from November 2018 to February 2019, which resulted in the family posting a sign in the driveway that anyone wishing to provide services should pointed out that it was fraud and report it to the police instead. Services included repair teams, tow trucks and locksmiths.
No one from the Gilmore family spoke on the conviction during the hearing, but an attorney who represented them said the family was grateful to the federal agents and prosecutor who worked on the case, Cane said.
“The family went through a terrible ordeal and are grateful that it is over and that Mr. Okamura has been held accountable for his actions,” Crane said in a statement sent via email.
Prosecutors never revealed the victim’s relationship with Okamura, but his defense attorney Vanessa Ramos said today they met online.
Ramos said Okamura was under psychiatric treatment, met the terms of his supervision and had shown that he was ready to move on. She asked the court to relax the online restrictions so that he can perform basic functions that he must do online.
Investigators began investigating Okamura as a suspect in January 2019 when he was granted an injunction to the Gilmores in Utah, but it took until October to gather enough evidence to identify Okamura for his use of encryption and apps that have made him appear anonymous, prosecutors said. He was not arrested until late November because police had difficulty locating him because he did not have a permanent address or job, and authorities said he was “savvy” with the technology used to disguise the location of his phone .
Prosecutors said they had records of Okamura’s cell phone and Apple ID to support the charges.
When Okamura was greedy for the plea deal in July 2020, prosecutors agreed to drop two additional charges: interstate threats and transportation of people to prostitution.