DENVER -- A Minnesota man faces charges for allegedly downloading Instagram pictures of female Colorado college athletes, pairing those photos in galleries with nude pictures of women who resembled the athletes, then using the spoofed pornography to harass his victims online.
Eric Ronald Bolduan, 43, of Rochester, Minnesota, is facing federal charges of interstate communications and stalking after a year-long investigation into the alleged scheme that authorities say targeted four women in Colorado, including at least three CU-Boulder cross country team members, and as many as 50 other victims across the country from November 2015 to November 2016.
Federal investigators say Bolduan distributed the altered photos online, where they appeared on several pornographic websites.
The alleged harassment and threats started sometime around November 2015, when twin sisters from Colorado started receiving photos of nude women that were mixed in with images of the actual women. The photo galleries were labeled with the victims’ names, insinuating the nude photos were also of the same women, according to a criminal complaint for Bolduan’s arrest.
In some of the spoofed images, the women’s faces were digitally manipulated and put onto the pornographic images.
The twin sisters discovered similar image galleries posted on multiple pornography websites for a year, and throughout that time, their family members, friends, and other staffers and students of the university were sent links to the galleries.
“The subject would often send threatening emails to the victims discussing how he was stalking them and planning to rape, torture, and kill them,” the criminal complaint says.
The women reported some of the harassment to police in the spring of 2016, who started investigating, along with the FBI.
Investigators found that the person behind the images and harassment was spoofing email addresses to harass the women, and detectives found the faked photo galleries depicting one of the women on at least nine pornographic websites.
While investigating the harassment of the twin women, two other women on the CU-Boulder cross country team reported to police they were similarly being harassed with fabricated nude photos of themselves.
One of the women received an email threat that said:
“If you would prefer we stop now and leave you alone, you have two options: 1. Leave the university and never come back 2. Commit suicide. We would prefer #2, but will accept #1 as well. If you do neither of these options then we’ll keep after you for as long as you are here.”
The person behind the harassment even started sending the fake galleries to some of the women’s employers.
“This has been a long time coming. We just want it to stop. We’re not out for justice. We just want it to stop,” one of the victims told Denver7's Jaclyn Allen Thursday.
By searching through metadata in some of the screenshots of the women stolen from social media, investigators eventually traced nearly all of the images and harassment back to Bolduan.
A search warrant was executed at his and his wife’s Minnesota home in early June. He admitted to being responsible for the harassment of the four Colorado women, and at least 50 other women across the country. The FBI says it also seized “a large volume of digital evidence” that agents are still reviewing.
One of the FBI agents involved in the investigation emailed with Bolduan further after the warrant was executed, and admitted further he had impotence issues that caused him to lash out at the women.
Bolduan told the FBI agent that initially, he’d wanted to “draw attention” to revenge porn online, but wrote in an email that “it wasn’t long before the motivation was anger and frustration, with the intent of upsetting and frightening the victims and making them fear for their lives.”
“The first motivation was a misguided but well intentioned short lived [sic] phase that quickly progressed to the final motivation, a motivation for which there can be no justification,” Bolduan wrote.
Bolduan was recently extradited to Denver to face the charges in the U.S. District Court of Colorado, and made his first court appearance Thursday. He remains in federal custody in Denver pending his arraignment, which is scheduled for next Tuesday.
Bolduan has a criminal history in Minnesota, including a conviction for indecent exposure in 2004 and criminal sexual contact in 1993.