Tags: DEA | Facebook | Sued | federal court

Woman Sues DEA Agent Over Fake Facebook Page

By    |   Tuesday, 07 October 2014 09:57 PM

An agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is being sued in federal court by a woman who alleges he used her identity to set up a Facebook profile to catch criminals.

Sondra Arquiett, who was arrested by the DEA on drug charges in 2010, is seeking $250,000. She argues that DEA agent Timothy Sinnigen used her personal photos from her cell phone — which was seized at the time of her arrest — to create a fake Facebook page of her.

The case was first reported by BuzzFeed.

The page, which was taken down on Monday, showed photos of Arquiett posing on the hood of a BMW and several other images. There were messages that said she missed her boyfriend, Jermaine Branford, who the DEA believed was the head of a drug trafficking ring.

The DEA used the Facebook page as a way to trick Arquiett's friends into revealing drug secrets the agency could use against them.

The case is scheduled for trial next week in Albany, N.Y.

The Justice Department defended the practice in an August court filing, claiming Arquiett "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 ... ongoing criminal investigations."

Court records show that in February 2011, Arquiett pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute cocaine base. She was sentenced in January 2012 to time served and given a period of home confinement.

In the plea agreement, Arquiett — who also was identified by the last names Prince and Arquiette — acknowledged that from 2008 to 2010 she was part of a drug conspiracy in Watertown, N.Y. The records also show she participated in jailhouse telephone calls with co-conspirators and at times made three-way telephone calls connecting jailed co-conspirators with others.

Arquiett said in her court filing she suffered "fear and great emotional distress" and was endangered because the fake page gave the impression she was cooperating with Sinnigen's investigation as he interacted online with "dangerous individuals he was investigating."

The case questions how much authority the government should have when it comes to personal information and using a person's identity for investigative purposes.

"If I'm cooperating with law enforcement, and law enforcement says, 'Can I search your phone?' and I hand it over to them, my expectation is that they will search the phone for evidence of a crime, not that they will take things that are not evidence off my phone and use it in another context," said Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties organization.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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An agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is being sued in federal court by a woman who alleges he used her identity to set up a Facebook profile to catch criminals.
DEA, Facebook, Sued, federal court
Tuesday, 07 October 2014 09:57 PM
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