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Professor arrested for stalking firefighters, making false claims

Melissa Santana allegedly used as many as 19 fake social media accounts to harass three firefighters and their family members


By FireRescue1 Staff

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — An assistant university professor was arrested for stalking after falsely claiming firefighters raped her daughter and using several social media accounts to harass them and their families.

The Washington Post reported that an investigation began after the superintendent of the Flagstaff Interagency Hotshot Crew received an email from a woman who identified herself as Cathy McCarthy.

“I am disgusted by the behavior of your hotshot crew when they passed through my town,” the email said. “Several weeks ago your guys were on the way to a fire in Wyoming. I intercepted messages between your crew members and my UNDERAGE 15-year-old daughter. She won’t tell me which website they met on but I did read that they invited her back to their hotel, gave her alcohol and had sex with her. This is statutory rape and I want these men charged.”

The woman then listed three firefighters in the alleged incident and said she would contact the media if the department did not respond.

U.S. Forest Service special agent Sophia Fong responded to the email address that was used to send the message, but found that it was no longer in use. After further investigation, Fong also discovered that Cathy McCarthy did not exist, and the allegations involving the 15-year-old girl were untrue.

The woman behind the email was Melissa Santana, an interior design assistant professor at Northern Arizona University, according to a criminal affidavit.

Federal prosecutors said Santana had used as many as 19 fake social media accounts to harass at least six people and their family members, including three firefighters.

During her investigation, Fong found that three firefighters had met Santana on the dating app Tinder, one of whom had recently ended a sexual relationship with her.

“Why not be like the Granite Mountain Hotshots and go die in the fire, like the other dumba** losers there,” Santana allegedly said to the firefighter after he ended the relationship.

Another firefighter who said he matched with Santana on Tinder said she texted his supervisor from an unknown number and said “He won’t return my phone calls, I’m pregnant, and it’s his.”

Fong was able to trace several other harassing aliases back to Santana online and she was arrested for stalking and making false statements.

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