Seattle firefighter accused of impersonating coworker and sending threatening emails to CM Sawant
A Seattle firefighter is facing cyberstalking and identity theft charges after being accused of using a colleague's email account to send threatening messages to Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant.
According to court documents, Andrew Finseth, 42, told investigators that his goal in writing the threatening messages to the council member was to get a fellow firefighter in trouble. He was charged in court for cyberstalking and identity theft on Wednesday.
Sawant received threatening emails on Dec. 17 and Dec. 19, 2020. Then again on Jan. 4 and Jan. 18, 2021. The emails were sent to Sawant's city email account. They were sent from another city account, within the fire department. One email suggested she jump off of a building and further offered to help push her over. Others stated "get out of the city or else" and "announce your resignation now or else."
The firefighter whose name was on the threatening emails became aware that his account had been hacked in late December, according to charging documents. He initially discovered that his email account was being used to request a transfer to another station. He said he did not request any such move, however. Emails were sent to superiors requesting the transfer, and then promptly deleted.
In addition to the transfer requests were the emails sent to Sawant. Despite changing the password, the firefighter's account was reportedly hacked again in January and more emails were sent to Sawant and superiors. SFD opened an investigation into the issue.
Seattle's IT department looked into the email account and discovered that it was being accessed from two locations outside Seattle, which are associated with Finseth's home and his church, according to Seattle Police Department documents on the case. Finseth was arrested on Feb. 12 by Seattle police officers in connection with the hacked account and threatening emails.
According to Seattle police records, Finseth told detectives that he was able access the other firefighter's email account by calling Seattle's IT department and posing as the other firefighter. He then allegedly had IT staff change the account's password so he could access it and send emails to Sawant. He said that he did not wish any harm on Councilmember Sawant and targeted her because she represents the district where the other firefighter lives. According to police records, he wanted to get the other firefighter in trouble and punished by superiors.
According to KING5, the two firefighters have a history of conflict. The employee feud is also outlined in the Seattle Police Department investigation into the hacked email account. An internal investigation was launched in 2019 after negative interactions between the two firefighters, which uncovered they had a tense history and working relationship.
Finseth was named Seattle Firefighter of the Year in 2018. He's now on paid leave.
The Seattle Police Department says that it has also recently forwarded another, unrelated case to the prosecutor's office about threats to another council member.
In early February, Councilmember Sawant had criticized the Seattle Police Department's progress on the investigation into the threatening emails. Sawant said detectives were taking a "lackadaisical approach" to the case and sent a letter to Mayor Jenny Durkan that said there was a “lack of urgency, or even interest" from SPD to investigate the case.