May 24, 2024

Baltimore County Police arrested the former athletic director of Pikesville High School on Thursday, alleging he used an AI voice clone to impersonate the school’s principal, leading the public to believe Principal Eric Eiswert had made racist and antisemitic comments, according to The Baltimore Banner.

Dazhon Darien was stopped at a Baltimore airport on Thursday morning attempting to board a flight to Houston with a gun, according to the Banner. Investigators determined Darien faked Eiswert’s voice using an AI cloning tool. The AI voice recording, which was circulated widely on social media, made disparaging comments about Black students and the Jewish community.

“Based on an extensive investigation, detectives now have conclusive evidence the recording was not authentic,” the Baltimore County Police said in a press release. “As part of their investigation, detectives requested a forensic analyst contracted with the FBI to analyze the recording. The results from that analysis indicated the recording contained traces of AI-generated content.”

This deepfake reportedly led to a public outrage causing Principal Eiswert to receive a wave of hateful messages and forcing his temporary removal from the school. The school’s front desk was flooded with calls from concerned parents. The Pikesville school district ultimately arranged for a police presence at the school and Eiswert’s house to restore a sense of safety.

Baltimore Police officials say the former athletic director made the AI recording to retaliate against the school’s principal. A month before the recording went viral, The Banner reports that Eiswert launched an investigation into Darien for potential theft of school funds. Darien authorized a $1,916 payment to the school’s JV basketball coach, who was also his roommate, bypassing proper procedures. Darien submitted his resignation earlier in April, according to school documents.

Police say Darien was the first of three teachers to receive the audio clip the night before it went viral. The Banner reports another teacher who received the recording sent it to students, media outlets, and the NAACP. Police wrote in charging documents that Darien used the school network to search for OpenAI tools and use large language models on multiple occasions. However, a lot of people use these AI tools these days. It’s unclear at this time how investigators were able to pinpoint Darien as the creator of this voice recording.

The creation of AI-generated audio deepfakes is an increasingly large problem facing the tech world. The Federal Communications Commission took steps in February to outlaw deepfake robocalls after a Joe Biden deepfake misled New Hampshire voters.

In this case, AI experts were able to identify the alleged audio of the Baltimore principal was a fake. However, this came two months after the audio went viral, and the damage may have already been done. AI deepfakes really need to be stopped early on to minimize harm, but that’s easier said than done.

A version of this article originally appeared on Gizmodo.

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