Anthony Caccamo suspected his wife was seeing other men. So while she slept, he used her thumb to open her phone.
What he found confirmed his fears. Instead of confronting her, Caccamo began impersonating those men and made his wife believe she was being stalked by a Department of Homeland Security employee, launching a nightmare that sparked state, local and federal government investigations and has now landed him in prison for a year.
"I learned a big lesson," Caccamo, 28, said Friday after a sentencing hearing in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. "Forgive and forget, instead of trying to get back at someone."
Caccamo was sentenced to one year in prison. In September, he had pleaded guilty cyberstalking.
Prosecutors said he put his wife and two other men in a mental prison for almost a year, using software to disguise his phone number and voice in vicious messages.
"He made her fear she was constantly being watched," Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Fong said at the hearing. "Cyberstalking is unfortunately becoming more and more common," she added, and with the centrality of communication devices in modern life, "it's more difficult to escape the psychological harm."
Caccamo and the woman had an open relationship; he said they got married after just four months of dating in part because she needed a visa. They met at a work event in Florida but never lived together - she was in Falls Church, Virginia, and he was in New York City.
But Caccamo, whose defense attorney Chris Leibig said in court suffered from severe and untreated depression, did not always acknowledge or accept the terms of their relationship.
"He wasn't in a mental position to be in a relationship," Leibig said in court, adding that his client had never told his family he was married.
Once, Fong said, Caccamo timed a threatening message to coincide with a delivery to his wife's house, knowing the knock on the door would make her afraid the stalker had arrived.
When Caccamo learned that one of the men his wife dated worked in cybersecurity at the Department of Homeland Security, he began impersonating his rival and threatening his wife with deportation back to her home country of Ukraine.
"I am monitoring your top contacts, on all your apps. Nothing you have is secure," Caccamo said in one message, posing as the DHS employee. "Anyone that comes into contact with you will surely regret their decision. The only option you have is to get it if [sic] my country."
Moreover, he added that "any family you have outside of the USA will be denied at the border."
He pretended the DHS was conspiring with another man his wife knew, threatening to frame her for hacking crimes and release her intimate photos, according to court records.
The woman called the Fairfax police, the FBI and the DHS inspector general's hotline, saying a DHS employee had hacked into her iPhone and threatened her, according to court documents. She and Caccamo met with investigators at the DHS Washington Field Office in Arlington in June 2017.
The employee Caccamo had framed "for over a year agonised about losing his job or being falsely imprisoned," Fong said in court.
Caccamo declined to let his phone be searched at that meeting. Almost a year after the couple went to DHS, agents got a search warrant for Caccamo's home. After 1,000 hours of investigation, they had realized the culprit was one of the supposed victims.
In court, Caccamo said he didn't realize how much trouble and pain his actions would cause. Judge Leonie M. Brinkema was skeptical, noting his successful career as an accountant.
"You have a master's degree," she said. He is barred from speaking to any of the victims, except through an attorney for divorce proceedings from his wife.
"In terms of any apologies," Brinkema said, "just leave it alone."