Woman Faces up to 18 Months in Prison for Fake Facebook Page

Note: This article was updated January 2021 to remove specific identification of the names of any individuals involved in the case in order to protect their privacy. The information about the case is presented solely as a matter of historical record documenting court decisions involving social media.

Update: An update to the outcome of the case was published by the LA Times in March 2012

As reported by NJ.com; a New Jersey woman still faces charges this week in a case of first impression in an identity theft indictment.  The woman, 41, is being accused of impersonating her ex-boyfriend, a Parsippany Detective, by creating a Facebook page in his likeness.  The Facebook account, created in 2009, allegedly contained modified images of the man as well as derogatory comments seemingly made by him.  The woman was indicted in August 2010 by a Morris County grand jury on a fourth-degree charge of identity theft, which is punishable upon conviction by up to 18 months in prison.

Her defense attorney is claiming that New Jersey’s statute does not apply to her case because, “it does not specifically address impersonation through the use of social media or the Internet.”

Superior Court Judge David Ironson has ruled that this defense “lacks merit” and will uphold the conviction.  Judge Ironson has stated that the Internet is a means of accomplishing a goal of impersonation, but just because New Jersey’s law doesn’t specifically mention it as a vehicle to impersonate doesn’t mean the statute doesn’t apply to the woman’s alleged conduct.

So although the New Jersey statute doesn’t specifically mention “Social Media” in its wording, we must be able interpret the law accordingly.  Social Media is a form of communication and what is said and published there is comparable with impersonation in print or in person.

Prosecutors have argued that although the statue doesn’t “include or exclude electronic communications it is applicable to a broad spectrum of impersonation techniques.” The woman has allegedly assumed the identity of another person and acted to injure the man’s reputation and career as a police officer.  This can be done through multiple mediums and Facebook is no different in this aspect.

States like New York and California have amended their own impersonation statutes to include “Social Media” in its text.  Her defense team is arguing that these states dismissed cases like hers until those laws were amended.  New Jersey does currently have a bill in congress to adjust their original statute, but Morris County prosecutors and Judge alike agree that this is a clarification of the existing statute. They still interpret the existing law to include all mediums, including the ever-growing world of Social Media.

facebook, Identity Theft, social media identity theft


One Response to “Woman Faces up to 18 Months in Prison for Fake Facebook Page”

  1. mike deluca on December 18th, 2011 11:05 am

    There seems to be a double standard in New Jersey regarding internet identity theft. I am not sure if it is because the victim in the Thornton case is a police officer, or if the perpetrator in my case, is a friend of a Town official.

    I am the victim of identity theft in New Jersey (Guttenberg) but the local police and the Hudson County prosecutor refuse to prosecute the person who created an email address under my name mikerdeluca@yahoo.com, sent emails posing as me that are of a perverted sexual nature much to vulgar to print here, and posted messages in the chat room section of my homeowner association blog with the user name mike deluca. I am an advocate of free speech but saying or criticizing someone by stealing their identity to mislead the readers into thinking it is me who is writing those words in something entirely different than free speech.

    I reported this to the Guttenberg police in early August but they have failed to even file a complaint against “Jeffery” who lives in the same condo as me, The Galaxy Towers. Five months have passed but nothing has been done. I reported this to the Hudson County prosecutor’s computer crime division head, Lt. Dezanzo, but he refuses to charge “Jeffery” with identity theft. He said this falls under harassment. He referred my complaint back to the Guttenberg police who have refused to even charge “Jeffery” with harassment. I am wondering if this is because he is a friend and neighbor of the Guttenberg mayor and councilman, Gerald Drasheff and Alfonso Caso or if it is because i am not a police officer. “jeffery” did the same thing to me, as Ms Thornton did to her ex-boyfriend but she was indicted for identity theft, “jeffery” has not even received a complaint for anything and five months have passed.

    “Jeffery” admitted his acts to me, my wife, and two others. Their sworn statements were given to the Guttenberg police. As the admin of my website, i have the IP address of the postings on my website. They trace back to “Jeffery’s” office in Hackensak, New Jersey.

    I recently contacted Hudson County Assemblyman Ruben Ramos who sponsored the Bill that expands the statute to include electronic communications as a form of identity theft. I also contacted Senator Brian Stack. I am asking Mr. Ramos to explain the double standard and ask the Hudson County prosecutor to reconsider the decision not to prosecute “Jeffery”

    What is most puzzling to me is that a Morris County prosecutor and a Morris County judge supports the Bill Mr. Ramos sponsored as a Hudson County Assemblyman along with the amended statute. Both Morris County officials recognize that even though electronic communication is not in the statute, it doesn’t make it less of a crime as the judge indicated in his ruling, but the Hudson County prosecutor does not seem to support the Bill Mr. Ramos sponsored, the amended statute, or the judge’s precedent setting ruling that allowed the Morris County prosecutor to charge ms. Thornton with identity theft. I thought this would have been a great opportunity to show the residents of New Jersey and especially Hudson County, that internet identity theft will not be tolerated and that Mr. Ramos’s Bill are supported by his fellow Hudson County constituents. I am waiting for a response from Assemblyman Ramos.

    My website is http://www.galaxyfacts.com
    On the home page there is a link to the chat room blog http://www.galaxy-facts.com

    Mike Deluca

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