Last Tuesday, a Singapore man was convicted on 31 counts of criminal intimidation in a notorious cybserstalking case. Today, the victimized American singer and the Bay Area computer forensic scientist who helped bring the man to justice talked about their experience. While this case had a happy ending almost nine years after it started, there is still no clear process for victims of cyberstalking crime.
Colin Mak Yew Loong admitted in a Singapore courtroom this week that he sent death threats and intimidating voice mails to the singer – Leandra Ramm – from 2005 to 2011. As if this wasn’t enough, Mak also confessed to harassing two other foreign musicians, criminal trespass, and (bizarrely) stealing cookies from a kindergarten.
“It is the first time in history that an international cyberstalker has been prosecuted by anybody,” said A.J Fardella, the computer forensic expert who helped bring the Ramm case to Singapore authorities.
Mak will be sentenced in Singapore next week and could be jailed for up to seven years. He told the court that he had “lost control” and was “deeply troubled.”
To say that he “lost control” is an understatement. As Mak’s cyberstalking escalated, it included posting pictures of Ramm with obscenity-laced threats on a blog (that the web host refused to take down), obtaining email addresses and contacting members of her family, agents, and opera companies who wanted to employ the singer. Mak even pirated YouTube videos of the singer and posted them with fake, derogatory titles.
As Ramm described it today, “It was a very, very horrible case that really tore me apart.”
What’s startling about this case is not just the length of time it took to bring a criminal to justice, but how difficult it was to get him arrested. Ramm’s six-year efforts to seek help for her plight went nowhere until Fardella, who has deep relationships with the U.S. Secret Service, actively pushed Singapore authorities to arrest Mak promptly.
Most U.S. states now have electronic harassment laws. But when the criminal is from a foreign country, as in the Mak case, the victim must navigate a maze of U.S. agencies who may or may not have authority to pursue prosecution. And in today’s age of terrorism and political turmoil among nations around the world, a cyberstalking case could be far down the list of priorities for foreign governments.
Despite the trouble which Mak’s cyberstalking caused, Ramm is now riding a wave of interest in her experience. An e-book titled “Stalking A Diva” was published last year and her story was chronicled in an episode of the Lifetime Channel TV program “My Life Is A Lifetime Movie.” Ramm and Fardella will also be featured early next year in an upcoming TV segment of “Obsession: Dark Desires” on Discovery Channel.
Ramm’s six-year case against Mak shows how far one deranged individual can go in today’s electronic world to cause enormous personal and professional disruption. The chilling truth is that there are many more like him out there and the channels for bringing them to justice are just as cumbersome now as when Ramm started her tortuous, but ultimately successful odyssey.
Today, Ramm and Fardella announced what they are calling the Ramm Initiative as part of the Association Against Cybercrime. The goal is to modify existing treaties between nations and introduce new laws that would make it easier to prosecute criminals such as the Singapore man who harassed Ramm.
“She went through six years of holy hell,” said Fardella. For others around the world, their own experience with the dark side of the cybercrime may now be only beginning.