‘Nick the Hat’ going through id theft, forgery counts as trial begins

MEDIA COURTHOUSE – The former editor in chief of online news site Your Content is on trial this week for allegedly created a fake racist email attributed to a Delaware County Adult Probation and Parole officer and posing as a reporter and producer for other news organizations.

Nikolaos Tzima Hatziefstathiou, also known as “Nik the Hat,” 28, of the 700 block of Cedar Grove Road in Broomall, is charged with two counts each of forgery and identity theft, three counts of unsworn falsification to authorities, and one count of tampering with public records or information.


Hatziefstathiou is represented by defense attorneys Joseph Lesniak, Mark Much and Norm Pattis in the trial before Court of Common Pleas Judge John Capuzzi. Deputy Attorney General Phillip McCarthy and Senior Deputy Attorney General Kelly Sekula are prosecuting.

“This case is about three things: Fake news, revenge and vanity,” said McCarthy in opening statements. “You will learn that the defendant wants to be viewed as a legitimate mainstream journalist and you will also learn that he looks for a particular narrative, but when he doesn’t find that news, he makes it up.”

The defense deferred its opening statement, but objected several times to testimony identifying Hatziefstathiou as the user who created and sent the allegedly bogus emails, signaling at least part of the defense strategy.

The case began on May 25, 2019, when YC News posted a story with an image of a purported 2015 email that was allegedly sent “between several county officials and a current department supervisor, where they accidentally carbon copied a probationer.”

“Good morning,” the redacted email begins, “you don’t have to worry about job security … ROFL … so long as there’s a n—- in our county, you will have a full slate. Just make sure he registers as a (redacted) before applying, they’re extremely strict about that. Can’t have a bunch of ganbangs loving (redacted) in here … ha. (sic)”

The story claimed the email came to light as part of a request under the state’s Right to Know Law to inspect electronic communications between all Delaware County law enforcement agencies.

But Delaware County Detective Edmond Pisani testified Tuesday that the county was unable to locate the email on its servers, indicating it never actually existed.

Pisani said the county “jumped into high gear” investigating the email, which eventually lead them to Hatziefstathiou’s home in Broomall. Investigators served a search warrant there in June 2019 and recovered a MacBook and iPhone from Hatziefstathiou’s vehicle, he said.

Pisani said he was familiar with Hatziefstathiou from a 2015 investigation in which he harassed his neighbors by repeatedly sending prostitutes to their door through a now-defunct escort service, then calling the police on them.

Pisani said Hatziefstathiou used the same racially charged language in that earlier case, stating, “I like to watch n—-s get locked up and more n—-s are going to get in trouble.”

Hatziefstathiou pleaded guilty to harassment in that case and was sentenced to probation, said Pisani.

During their search of Hatziefstathiou’s home, Pisani said investigators came across a print out an old email from Probation and Parole Supervisor Jeff Roney, while Hatziefstathiou was on probation. This particular email described how Hatziefstathiou was “unstable” and seemed unable to comply with the rules of probation.

Pisani said in an affidavit of probable cause that Roney indicated he would communicate with Hatziefstathiou’s attorneys via email and Hatziefstathiou would be CC’d in replies.

County Detective Christopher Tankelewicz also testified to a forensic report he put together detailing what he had found on the iPhone and MacBook.

Tankelewicz said he found the original email from Roney had been scanned into the phone using an application and was put in Dropbox, which was then accessed on the computer and downloaded.

Tankelewicz laid out a timeline of events over 39 minutes on the afternoon of May 25, 2019, when the original email was allegedly changed from a static .pdf to a more easily manipulated .jpeg, then doctored using photo editing websites to wipe the original text and replace it with the racist remarks.

The user then searched Google for “black” and used a series of screen captures to create black bars that redacted much of the sender and receiver information on the original email, but left the end of Roney’s email address showing it was from a county account and his position as supervisor, Tankelewicz said.

During this period, Tankelewicz said the iPhone was in communication with Hatziefstathiou’s contacts and family members. Emails were also received and viewed, and sent out from Hatziefstathiou’s email address around this same time, said Tankelewicz, including one to county council at 6:13 p.m. serving as a “final notice” for comment before the story broke. The post was uploaded at 6:18 p.m., Tankelewicz said.

Pisani testified that he watched the story on the YC News site change over the next couple of days as its veracity was challenged. The word “allegedly” was added to a line about an email exchange between county officials and language indicating the email came from a “news tip” that YC News could not independently verify was also appended, Pisani said. Pisani took screenshots of both versions and denied removing anything labeling the purported email as an “illustration.”

Hatziefstathiou is also accused of posing as New York Times reporter Liam Stack and ABC producer Stephanie Wash in emails to the District Attorney’s Public Relations Office in April 2019.

Former interim public relations officer Chelsey Price testified that she received an email from the YC News national desk April 22, 2019, seeking comment on an in-depth feature about a “decade-long” conspiracy between several agencies in Delaware County.

That was soon followed by emails purportedly from Wash and Stack claiming that there was an audio recording of a Marple detective berating Hatziefstathiou and promising to “harass the piss out of (him) legally.”

Emails from “Wash” sought comment and asked if the alleged harassment could be politically motivated due to Hatziefstathiou’s “ties to the president,” while another purportedly sent to one of Hatziefstathiou’s former defense attorneys, Chuck Peruto, indicated the story would be on all ABC platforms “given Nik’s status in the industry.”

“Stack” meanwhile pressed for information on criminal complaints filed against the Marple Police, according to Price, and said the New York Times would report that the DA had no protocol for reporting official misconduct and refused to comment.

Price said she became suspicious of these emails because many of them came from “” addresses and the wording seemed off. She said Hatziefstathiou also tried to schedule a meeting with then-District Attorney Katayoun Copeland about a findings report and petition for a grand jury investigation.

Pisani said he investigated the phone number provided in the “Wash” emails and found it was owned by a company that sells internet phone numbers that can be used over data. The number was associated with Ad Hoc Labs’ “burner” app, which can make phones appear to be calling from a different number, said Pisani. Hatziefstathiou had used this same app while making prank calls and his iPhone had the app installed, Pisani said.

Pisani said he was able to get an Internet Protocol address used to log into the email accounts purporting to be Wash and Stack, which was registered to Hatziefstathiou’s Broomall address under his sister’s name.

Both outlook accounts were also created and accessed using the same Apple product, said Pisani: Hatziefstathiou’s iPhone. Tankelewicz also testified that the “Wash” and “Stack” outlook addresses had permissions on Hatziefstathiou’s MacBook.

The real Wash and Stack testified that they had not sent any of the emails and were not aware of Hatziefstathiou or YC News until Pisani questioned them. Both said the illegitimate use of their names was concerning.

The prosecution is not pursuing counts for receipt of stolen property concerning a police Taser Hatziefstathiou was allegedly given by Chester Police Officer Donald Jackson. Jackson is still charged with one count of theft, however, and is scheduled for a status hearing in that case Dec. 13 before Capuzzi.

Hatziefstathiou stepped down from his editor position at YC last month, but remains Chief Executive Officer and President of its publisher, Original Media Group Corporation, according to a release. Anthony Loro, Chief Communications Officer for Original Media Group Corporation, said in a statement that the publication stands by its reporting.

“It’s far too late for the person who started this literal courthouse catch-and-kill campaign to reverse what they intentionally set in motion,” said Loro. “We know our team, especially Mr. Hatziefstathiou, will be on the right side of history in this dark Delaware County era.”

The trial is expected to continue today.


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