- With a kidnapping reported, authorities in Bulgaria searched for an American named Kate
- But there was no kidnapping, and there was no Kate, U.S. authorities say
- New Jersey man tells authorities he created "Kate" online and claimed she was kidnapped
- Just a joke, says the man, now charged with making false statements to a U.S. official
A New Jersey man tells authorities his idea to create a fictional woman online, and then to report she'd been "kidnapped" in Bulgaria was just a joke.
But the feds aren't laughing.
Andriy Mykhaylivskyy, 18, of Bergen County, New Jersey, was arrested Tuesday and charged with making false statements to a United States official, according to Matthew Reilly at the U.S. attorney's office in New Jersey.
Mykhaylivskyy allegedly created a fake online persona named Kate Brianna Fulton and proceeded to initiate a year-long online relationship between "Kate" and one of his male high school classmates, according to the criminal complaint.
In July, he contacted a U.S. Embassy in Eastern Europe to report that Kate had been kidnapped in Bulgaria and was being held for $50,000 ransom. The high school friend, who was not in on the ruse, called Bulgaria himself and had two tweets from Kate's Twitter account including one that said, "Someone help me."
It was enough to launch a search of hotels and hostels in one Bulgarian town by authorities there. But there was no kidnapped Kate to be found in Bulgaria -- because there was no Kate.
Through online investigations, authorities traced Kate back to Mykhaylivskyy, who admitted the "joke" in an interview with State Department investigators earlier this month, according to authorities..
Mykhaylivskyyy was in federal court in Newark Tuesday, where his bail was set at $5,000 with the condition that he only use the Internet for educational purposes and that he continue school.
Mykhaylivskyy's lawyer, K. Anthony Thomas, declined to comment.