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SALT LAKE CITY — A Hawaii man has been arrested in connection with a North Salt Lake cyberstalking case in which he allegedly sent various unwanted service workers to a Utah family’s home over 500 times.
Loren Okamura, 44, was arrested Friday in connection with the case, according to a motion filed in U.S. District Court in Hawaii.
Okamura is accused of stalking and harassing a North Salt Lake family from sometime in 2018 up to August 2019, according to a federal indictment filed Oct. 2 in U.S. District Court in Utah. He faces charges of cyberstalking, interstate threats, and transporting an individual to engage in prostitution, according to the indictment.
The bizarre case was first reported by the Deseret News in March. A tow truck driver that North Salt Lake resident Walt Gilmore did not call showed up at his home. The driver said he was there to haul a car out of the driveway.
The next few months followed with a near-nonstop parade of workers showing up to the home, the Deseret News reported. Workers have come to the home to provide electrical, plumbing, tree-trimming and towing services, but some have also offered illegal services such as drugs or prostitution, according to the Associated Press.
The problem got so bad that the family put a sign in front of their home alerting potential workers to the situation, the Associated Press reported.
In addition to allegedly sending the workers to the home, Okamura is accused of sending an email to one of the family members saying she should “sleep with one eye open and keep looking over her shoulder,” according to court documents. He also allegedly messaged the woman “you should just kill yourself and do your family a favor” in the email, court documents say.
In January, Okamura left “egregious amounts” of voicemails on the woman’s phone, including multiple messages a day in some instances, court documents allege. The woman and the family got cease and desist orders and a civil stalking injunction, but Okamura continued to break the orders, the documents say.
"This is something that no family, no person or neighborhood should have to endure, this type of abuse for seven straight months,” Gilmore told The Associated Press in March. “The law should look at that and divvy out equal justice."
John Huber, U.S. attorney for the District of Utah, said Tuesday it was hard to gather evidence against Okamura down because of anonymous apps and encryption.
“It’s really extreme stalking that deserves to come to court and receive the justice that is awaiting,” he said.
Huber said this Utah family was tormented with hundreds of incidents that changed their lives and impacted their neighborhood as well. There were many victims in this case, he added.
“We’re not going to let that stand,” Huber said.
It's not clear why Okamura allegedly targeted the family. Gilmore told the Associated Press in March that he couldn't discuss the nature of the protective order, but said he was sure the stalking was not random.
Last week, Gilmore told Hawaii News Now he knows the reason why they were targeted and said "it will all come out in court."
Huber echoed this on Tuesday, saying officials know of some potential reasons for the stalking but he didn't think it was best to discuss them at this time.
It took a long time for law enforcement officials to find Okamura, in part because he does not have a known permanent address or a job in Hawaii, according to the court documents. He also is very savvy with technology and used phone apps to falsify location data using a process known as “spoofing,” the documents allege.
Okamura’s alleged actions affected not only the woman and her family, but also the entire neighborhood, court documents say. Law enforcement officials responded to the home at least 80 times, and the cost of lost services for the businesses involved amounted to thousands of dollars, the documents say.
“The entire neighborhood has witnessed this continued harassment,” the court documents say.
Okamura’s initial court appearance was held Monday in Hawaii. The case has not yet been transferred or assigned to another district, court documents say.
Okamura was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service after Monday’s hearing. His next court appearance is a detention hearing scheduled for Wednesday.
Attorneys representing Okamura and the U.S. Department of Justice in the case did not immediately respond to emails requesting comments on Tuesday.
Huber said Tuesday he believes this is the Beehive State's first federal cyberstalking case.
Looking to the future, Huber said he thinks more cyberstalking crimes will emerge in the future.
“I fully expect that people with the worst of intentions will use whatever they can to intimidate and cause fear in another person,” he said. “For all the good that technology offers us in our modern lifestyle, there’s also a darker, seedier side to it.”
Contributing: Tanner Siegworth, KSL TV; Lauren Bennett, KSL.com