Cyberstalker Sentenced

Man Threatened Ex-Girlfriends, Released Private Photos

Stock image of a man's hand typing on a computer keyboard.

A young Virginia woman didn’t know where to turn when she experienced a relentless campaign of cyberstalking by her ex-boyfriend. She faced violent threats, release of private photos, and extortion attempts.

So she called the FBI’s tip line, and the staff relayed her story to the FBI’s Richmond Field Office for investigation.

Agents learned that in November 2018, after she broke off a romantic relationship, the victim began to experience online harassment. At first, she believed her ex-boyfriend, Satyasurya Thumma, had been hacked. But the investigation showed that the anonymous messages were coming from Thumma himself.

“The theme that ran through it all was that he did not handle rejection well, and he lashed out in a prolonged way,” said Special Agent Michael Willis, who investigated the case out of the FBI’s Richmond Field Office, along with Special Agent Jeremy Derrico. “He either didn’t accept the rejection, or he did and wanted revenge.”

Thumma sent the victim two nude pictures of herself—photos she had sent him during the relationship—and demanded money to not release the photos.

He repeatedly sent anonymous text messages to her telling her to check her email, where she would find threatening message such as, “I dnt think ur parents wanna see ur nudes.” He even told the victim he’d been kidnapped and wouldn’t be released without her sending money.

When the victim didn’t comply, Thumma began sending her violent images and threatening messages. He then demanded $25,000 to not release her nude images to her church. After she did not provide the money, Thumma logged into the victim’s social media accounts and sent her nude photos to her contact list. The contact list included her family members and members of her church. Thumma also sent the images to the victim’s father’s employer and threatened to send them to her mother’s workplace as well.

“I give the victim and her mother a lot of credit for coming forward and being so helpful in our investigation.”

Michael Willis, special agent, FBI Richmond

After Thumma was in a car accident, he took a picture of himself lying in the hospital bed, appearing to be unconscious. He sent it to the victim and her mother with a text message that said, “Ur next.”

During the investigation, agents found another victim who had experienced a similar situation—being harassed and having her private photos released by Thumma after breaking up with him.

Willis credits the victim’s bravery in coming forward and talking about a traumatic, personal experience with the success of the case.

“I’m sure it was very hard for her to tell a stranger these embarrassing and painful things that happened to her,” Willis said. “But the fact is, the only way to stop it was to step forward and ask for help. I give the victim and her mother a lot of credit for coming forward and being so helpful in our investigation.”

Thumma pleaded guilty to cyberstalking, unauthorized access to a computer, and aggravated identity theft charges in July. In November, he was sentenced to more than six years in prison.

Willis hopes that the sentence will provide some comfort for the victim and her family, who are working to move on from the incessant harassment. At first, the victim didn’t feel safe, even after Thumma was arrested. They were worried there were more harassers involved.

“I remember telling the victim’s mother the day we arrested him, ‘It’s over, you’re not going to get another text. You’re not going to get another email,” Willis said. “But when we walked out of the courtroom at sentencing, she finally believed that it was just him and that she could truly move on with her life and be safe from him.”