Is a fake Facebook page identity theft?
In a case scheduled for trial in 2012, Dana Thornton is charged with identity theft. After she and her boyfriend broke up, Dana allegedly created a Facebook page pretending to be her ex, New Jersey narcotics detective Michael Lasalandra.
Dana, age 41, used personal information and photos of the detective. She posted comments supposedly from him such as “I’m a sick piece of scum with a gun.” She also wrote that he was “high all the time,” had herpes and frequented prostitution and escort services.
After hearing the state’s evidence, a grand jury charged Thornton with one count of fourth degree theft of identification. New Jersey’s law doesn’t specify electronic communication but the court decided that the language of the law covered what Thornton is alleged to have done. Other states (California, Texas and New York) have statutes prohibiting specifically the e-impersonation of another person. Taking and using someone’s name, photo and personal data without permission constitutes identity theft.
Update: As of February, 2012, Thornton and her attorney were trying to get her into the Pretrial Intervention Program, a diversion option that will result in dismissal of the charges upon successful completion of the program. At a hearing in March, 2012, the judge signed off on an agreement between the state and Thornton. She will begin the Pretrial Intervention Program which calls for one year of supervision, a psychological evaluation and counseling if recommended, and 50 hours of community service. If Thornton successfully completes the program, all charges will be dismissed and she won’t have a criminal record.
Although creating a fake profile of a friend or someone you know such as a principal or teacher sounds harmless, think twice before doing so. Even if done as a joke, it could backfire and lead to serious criminal charges that will affect your life at home, school and in your community. Remember, as we’ve mentioned many times on this site, once you put something out there, it’s permanent. You can’t retract it and your words or photos can come back to bite you in the future.