The Charlotte Observer
An active-duty member of the U.S. Navy began cyberstalking and harassing his ex-wife after their separation as part of a plan to portray her as “a mentally unstable parent,” federal prosecutors say.
At one point, the ex-wife was arrested and jailed for four days in Virginia after the filing of police reports and court motions that were based on lies, court documents state. Ultimately, the charges against her were dismissed.
The Naval officer’s girlfriend — who is a senior trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Transportation — was also involved in the man’s harassment campaign against his ex-wife and lived with him, according to prosecutors.
Now Jason Michael Leidel, 42, and Sarah Elizabeth Sorg, 43, both of Silver Spring, Maryland, face charges of aggravated identity theft, fraud, cyberstalking and conspiracy to commit cyberstalking, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland announced in an Oct. 20 news release.
Information regarding Leidel and Sorg’s legal representation was not immediately available as of Oct. 21.
“The Navy is cooperating with all investigative authorities,” Devin Arneson, a spokesperson for the U.S. Navy, told McClatchy News in a statement.
Arneson confirmed Leidel is still on active duty. He is a Medical Service Corps officer stationed at the U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery in Falls Church, Virginia, according to his military personnel file. Additionally, he is a student at the Uniformed Services University for the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. He was accepted into a Ph.D. program there, prosecutors say.
Leidel wanted to gain custody over children he had with his ex-wife in an effort to “deprive” her “of his retirement accounts and pension in their divorce agreement,” according to prosecutors.
Leidel and his ex-wife got married in 2005 and had two children together, court documents state.
He served in the U.S. Air Force from 2003 to 2009 before joining the Navy, according to his military personnel file.
In August 2018, Leidel and his wife separated and she moved back to Virginia Beach with their children, the release says. The two lived there before he became a student at the Uniformed Services University for the Health Sciences.
“Since their separation, Leidel has engaged in an ongoing and extensive scheme to harass his ex-wife,” prosecutors say, based on a 91-page affidavit filed in federal court.
The affidavit states that Leidel’s harassment campaign against his ex-wife included:
“(1) compromising several of her personal online accounts; sending emails purportedly on (the ex-wife’s) behalf in order to sabotage her employment; (2) generating fraudulent government records to include medical records to be used against (the ex-wife) in court; (3) filing false reports with various police departments and state/municipal agencies; (4) spoofing email addresses; and (5) filing court motions based on knowingly false information and statements, the latter of which ultimately resulted in (the ex-wife) being arrested and incarcerated for four days before charges against her were dismissed by state authorities.”
Meanwhile, prosecutors say Sorg helped Leidel in his harassment campaign against his ex-wife.
Upon Leidel and his ex-wife’s separation, his ex-wife began looking for work in Virginia Beach and expressed interest in teaching at a local elementary school, the affidavit states.
The principal of the elementary school began receiving emails from an account Leidel owned, alleging that the ex-wife was already hired by the school when she wasn’t, according to investigators.
One email to the principal — with a subject line stating “moral compass of your new teacher” — made allegations about Leidel’s ex-wife having an “extra-marietal affair with another man,” according to the affidavit.
“Probably not the best vantage for your schools demographics. Just saying,” the email stated in part. “I have sexually explicit emails plus phone records that corroborate that the to authors of these emails (are) who i claim. The woman happens to work for you.”
Leidel is accused of using different email accounts to keep tabs on his ex-wife and harass her when it came to her employment, investigators say.
The ex-wife ends up in jail
In another instance in September 2020, Sorg claimed she received an extortion letter in the mail, purportedly from Leidel’s ex-wife, that made threats of violence against Sorg and Leidel, according to the affidavit.
However, prosecutors say this was actually a part of Leidel’s scheme against his ex-wife.
Sorg filed a police report against the ex-wife in Maryland before calling law enforcement in Virginia Beach to have her arrested, according to the affidavit.
On Sept. 25, 2020, Virginia Beach police officers arrested the ex-wife on an extradition warrant from Maryland, the affidavit states.
Then, she was placed in jail for four days before the charges were dismissed, investigators say.
The affidavit supporting the criminal complaint against Leidel and Sorg goes on to detail several other instances of harassment against the ex-wife.
If convicted on the charges against them, the couple may be sentenced to years in prison, according to the release.
McClatchy News has also contacted the Department of Transportation inquiring about Sorg and was awaiting a response.