Published December 20, 2015
The Department of Justice says it is reviewing a case where a DEA agent is accused of setting up a fake Facebook page using a real woman's photos as part of an attempted drug sting.
BuzzFeed was the first to report Monday that New York resident Sondra Arquiett is suing the agent in question, Timothy Sinnigen, and the U.S. government in federal court for allegedly creating the Facebook page without her knowledge or permission and using it to communicate with criminals.
According to court records, Sinnigen has admitted using Arquiett’s likeness without her express permission. However, according to BuzzFeed the government is arguing Arquiett implied consent by surrendering her personal items after she was arrested as part of a drug investigation.
“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 government’s response reads according to BuzzFeed.
According to court documents, Arquiett was arrested in July 2010 as part of an investigation by the DEA, the Department of Homeland Security and a county drug task force. Investigators seized personal property from Arquiett, including her cell phone.
The next month, according to court documents, Sinnigen set up a fake Facebook page using images of Arquiett without her knowledge or consent. Sinnigen allegedly made the profile, which was available to the public, by taking pictures off of Arquiett’s cell phone.
These photos allegedly included “revealing” and “suggestive” images of Arquiett, and in some she was only wearing her underwear. Pictures of Arquiett’s child and other minor relatives were also used.
Sinnigen then allegedly used the fake profile to initiate contact with people Arquiett knew.
He also contacted “dangerous individuals” he was investigating as part of a probe into a drug trafficking ring. He allegedly used the profile for at least three months.
The court documents say that Arquiett became frightened and suffered “great emotional distress” when she discovered the profile, and worried she would be in danger because of her association with it.
A spokesman for the Justice Department told Fox News Tuesday that “the incident at issue in this case is under review by Justice Department officials.”