Internet Law

DEA agent created imposter Facebook page with real woman's info to lure suspects, suit says

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A woman arrested in a drug investigation contends in a lawsuit that the federal government set up a Facebook account using her name, photos and personal information in an effort to find suspects in a drug ring.

The suit by Sondra Arquiett of Watertown, New York, has spurred an investigation by the Justice Department, report BuzzFeed and the Washington Post. Arquiett says the government used photos from her cellphone, including racy photos of herself in skimpy attire and in a suggestive pose. One photo was posted of her son and niece, who were both minors.

An agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration created the account while Arquiett was awaiting trial on a charge of possession with intent to distribute cocaine, federal prosecutors admitted in court papers. They also acknowledged the drug agent used the account to send a friend request to a fugitive. Prosecutors said Arquiett didn’t expressly give consent to the fake Facebook page, but she implicitly granted consent when she allowed the government to use her cellphone information in the ongoing criminal investigation.

Arquiett, who last name was previously Prince, pleaded guilty in February 2011, and she was sentenced to probation. Prosecutors noted she played a small role in the conspiracy and had accepted responsibility.

Law enforcement officials would not say if the fake account was allowed under federal policies. Justice Department spokesman Brian Fallon told the Post the department was reviewing the incident and the use of fake online profiles.

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