Drug Law

DEA Agent Stole Woman's Identity, Set Up Facebook Account To Contact Suspects

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

A federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent allegedly stole an upstate New York woman’s identity and set up a fake Facebook account in her name.

Federal lawyers say U.S. DEA special agent Timothy Sinnigen had a right to impersonate the woman to communicate with suspected criminals after she was arrested in connection with a drug ring in 2010, the Justice Department said in a court filing.

Sondra Arquiett, who at the time went by the name Sondra Prince, says she learned about the Facebook account in 2010. A friend asked her about photos she posted to Facebook, but Arquiett didn’t have a Facebook account.

Pictures from Arquiett's confiscated phone, including scantily-clad images of her and pictures of her son and niece, were posted on the Facebook account, Buzzfeed reported.

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Arquiett had been arrested and charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine in January 2010. Sinnigen allegedly used the Facebook account to contact a fugitive as Arquiett, while she was awaiting trial. She was ultimately sentenced to five years probation.

She is now suing Sinnigen in a Syracuse federal district court for violating her privacy.

In a court filing, a U.S. attorney acknowledged that Sinnigen posed as Arquiett but said that he used the account “for a legitimate law enforcement purpose.”

“Defendants admit that Plaintiff did not give express permission for the use of photographs contained on her phone on an undercover Facebook page, but state the Plaintiff implicitly consented by granting access to the information stored in her cell phone and by consenting to the use of that information to aid in an ongoing criminal investigations [sic],” the court filing says.

But according to Facebook’s terms of service, it is a violation to set up an account under a fake identity.

The social media site doesn’t allow accounts that list a fake name, use your photos, pretend to be you or don’t represent a real person.

Sources: Buzzfeed, Syracuse.com

Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons / Anna-Stina Takala, Facebook / Buzzfeed