A Navy captain and former commanding officer of the dock landing ship Pearl Harbor has been charged in federal court with cyberstalking.
Prosecutors allege that Capt. Theodore E. Essenfeld, 51, started fake social media accounts using his civilian ex-girlfriend’s name and images, and posted erotic photos and videos of the woman that she had privately shared with him during their relationship.
One album he allegedly posted to a fake Facebook page pretending to be the woman was entitled “bedroom fun,” according to the indictment filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
Essenfeld is currently assigned to Expeditionary Strike Group 3 in San Diego and remains in place there, officials with the unit’s parent command, U.S. 3rd Fleet, said Wednesday.
The civilian attorney listed in court records as Essenfeld’s counsel did not reply to a request for comment by Navy Times’ deadline.
According to the Feb. 2 indictment, over an 18-month period Essenfeld started fake Facebook, LinkedIn, email and cell phone accounts using the woman’s name and photographs without her knowledge or consent.
The captain also used the fake Facebook account on the platform’s dating site and made the fake LinkedIn profile list the woman’s job as “professional pole dancer,” according to authorities.
“To stimulate engagement on Facebook’s Dating site, defendant Essenfeld ‘liked’ dating profiles of other Facebook users and posted images and messages falsely purporting to be from” the victim, who is not identified in the indictment.
He linked the bogus Facebook account to people and organizations that the victim knew, including her employer and alma mater, the indictment alleges.
Essenfeld and the woman began dating in 2018 and broke up in 2021, according to the indictment.
The prior-enlisted surface warfare officer has been a staffer with ESG 3 since August, and was the commanding officer of Pearl Harbor from 2015 to 2018, according to his service record.
If convicted on the cyberstalking charge, Essenfeld faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of cyberstalking by an active-duty servicemember, call the Department of Defense Hotline at 800-4240-9098.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.