DOJ Pays $134,000 To Settle Case Of DEA Agents Impersonating A Woman On Facebook

from the dea-out-of-control dept

Back in the fall, we wrote about how the DEA impersonated a woman on Facebook, even posting photographs of her young children (which they had taken off of her phone), in order to try to track down drug dealers. The woman, Sondra Arquiett, had dated a guy who was convicted of drug dealing, and had herself been charged with letting her boyfriend store some drugs in her apartment, leading to a sentence of probation. DEA agent Timothy Sinnegen then took the photos off of her phone, set up a fake Facebook page pretending to be Arquiett and tried to "friend" people she knew, in trying to track down other drug dealers. Arquiett was totally unaware of this until a friend brought it up, leading her to sue the DEA.

A few days ago, the Justice Department agreed to settle the case, paying her $134,000 for her troubles. As with many settlements, this one includes the government insisting that the settlement is not an admission of any guilt for its actions -- though it also leaves open that Arquiett could seek to get some attorneys' fees as well. Both Facebook and Senator Leahy had criticized the government for this action, and the DOJ promised to review this kind of practice -- though that review is still "ongoing." Either way, in this case, the DOJ realized that it was best to just pay up rather than let the case go much further.

Even so, the statement from the feds is fairly ridiculous:
U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York, Richard Hartunian, who previously had defended the agent’s behavior in court filings, issued a statement Tuesday calling the settlement “a fair resolution.” He said it “demonstrates that the government is mindful of its obligation to ensure the rights of third parties are not infringed upon in the course of its efforts to bring those who commit federal crimes to justice.”
Sorry, but if the government is actually "mindful of its obligations to ensure the rights of third parties are not infringed upon," then, uh, it shouldn't have impersonated people in the first place. Hopefully this settlement means it will not do so again in the future.

Filed Under: dea, doj, impersonation, social media, sondra arquiett, timothy sinnegen
Companies: facebook


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2015 @ 12:44pm

    demonstrates that the government is mindful of its obligation to ensure the rights of third parties are not infringed upon in the course of its efforts to bring those who commit federal crimes to justice.

    The government is mindful of its obligations? Well there you go folks, nothing to see here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    DannyB (profile), 23 Jan 2015 @ 12:48pm

    Yeah, but there's a WAR ON DRUGS going on!

    Haven't you heard?

    If we were to take one teeny tiny step back from this war on (some) drugs, it could lead to dire consequences and the sky would fall!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    NoneOne, 23 Jan 2015 @ 1:06pm

    Fraud

    This is fraud perpetrated by the DEA. I'm surprised they didn't hold the woman on new charges under the CFAA or threaten to revoke her probation to try and get her to drop the suit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2015 @ 1:08pm

    So when is the sky falling?

    Wow, an actual case of Identity Theft!!!!!

    Not that typical fraud on banks where the banks have managed to put the burden of restitution on a 3rd party by calling it "Identity Theft"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2015 @ 1:18pm

    "Hopefully this settlement means it will not do so again in the future."


    Since it's taxpayer money being used to pay these fees, and not money they earned, then what do they care?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2015 @ 1:26pm

    Wondering...

    What could have happened if she hadnt accepted the settlement? The only thing that I see possible is that the DEA gets a not guilty.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2015 @ 1:31pm

    Re:

    Also the agents who did this are free to do so again, and the DOJ can pay out again, shielding them from their crimes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Baron von Robber, 23 Jan 2015 @ 1:37pm

    Re:

    Maybe those that hold their budget (usually elected officials) could tell them "Yea and were cutting that out of your budget for next year too. Straighten out."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2015 @ 2:01pm

    "Hopefully this settlement means it will not do so again in the future."

    Have any settlements to victims of police abuse ever served as a deterrent to future police abuse?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2015 @ 2:14pm

    I am sure that it is a huge deterrent to the fine folks at the DEA that they may have to disburse more of our tax dollars if they are caught doing this again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2015 @ 2:28pm

    Re: Re:

    big deal, they make all this money for essentially no work, how much is a little slap on the wrist going to deter them? Now if it were a normal citizen breaking the law the consequences will be a lot worse and more deterring.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2015 @ 2:29pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    They still have a reliable source of income (your taxpayer money) despite performance.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Zonker, 23 Jan 2015 @ 3:15pm

    U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York, Richard Hartunian, who previously had defended the agent’s behavior in court filings, issued a statement Tuesday calling the settlement “a fair resolution.” He said it “demonstrates that the government is mindful of its obligation to ensure the rights of third parties are not infringed upon in the course of its efforts to bring those who commit federal crimes to justice.”
    If you were really interested in bringing those who commit federal crimes to justice then the DEA agents responsible would be facing a maximum federal sentence of 20 years (since it was committed to facilitate a drug trafficking crime) for the crime of identity theft. But instead we just get the same bullshit about how your officers have to be allowed to break our laws in order to properly enforce them. So who are the real criminals here?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2015 @ 4:45pm

    paying your way out of your crimes, that's American government corruption allowing for that.

    No jail time, no record just pay off the people you committ crimes against with their own money. Then start over and ruin the life of someone else as you learn nothing from it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    Padpaw (profile), 23 Jan 2015 @ 4:48pm

    Re: Wondering...

    they could have made up charges against for some reason or another for refusing to play ball.

    It is not like that's never happened before with criminal out of control government agents

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2015 @ 5:28pm

    Another missuse of authority accounted for

    3 million zillion left to go

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 23 Jan 2015 @ 6:19pm

    Re:

    Because nothing makes law & rights more secure than violating them when they want to with little consequence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jan 2015 @ 6:26pm

    Have an idea for a movie

    DEA impersonates innocent man in an attempt to catch drug dealers. FBI convinces fake account operators to agree to a terrorist act. Innocent man, who has no idea any of this is happening, gets arrested and thrown to jail. He's also unable to figure out what's going on because all evidence is somehow considered top secret.

    Not sure if this is a comedy or a horror flick...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    GEMont (profile), 24 Jan 2015 @ 12:17pm

    Crooks in power = citizsen victims

    If Timothy Sinnegen faces no charges, then no laws were broken, thus the entire process is totally legal and will be repeated at will in the future.

    The settlement is thus, nothing more than the tax payer once again footing the bill for a cash bribe to the victim of its own out-of-control law enforcement cowboys, to try and get her to stop bitching about being legally screwed over.

    Since no laws were broken, then any internal investigation will find just that, that no laws were broken - once again.

    In plain words, activities that would under any circumstance be seen as criminal if they were done by a citizen, are totally legal when done by law enforcement.

    Two tiered Justice.

    ---

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Pragmatic, 26 Jan 2015 @ 5:43am

    Re: Have an idea for a movie

    Based on a true story...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Fake Nom De Plum, 26 Jan 2015 @ 6:16am

    Infringement too?

    Could she sue them for copyright infringement over the photos?

    It would be unrelated the the criminal settlement, and as a civil case have a lower bar.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2015 @ 4:12pm

    DOJ pays $134,000 with drug money.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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