In July of 2010, Sondra “Sosa” Arquiett was arrested on drug charges. Her mobile phone was confiscated, and along with it, dozens of personal photographs, including some that were “revealing and/or suggestive,” according to Arquiett’s lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims that DEA agent Timothy Sinnigen then used those photos to set up a counterfeit Facebook account in which he pretended to be Arquiett, though cunningly changing her name to Sondra Prince.
“I miss Hovie,” one post read, without clarifying who – or what – Hovie is.
Sinnigen friended people, exchanged messages, and by all accounts had a grand time.
Not having a Facebook account herself, Arquiett said she discovered the impersonation after a relative asked why she was posting such provocative photos.
The plan was to use the phony account to lure in other drug dealers, which Arquiett’s lawsuit says placed her “in danger,” partially because it could lead fugitives to her front door, but also because it made it seem like Arquiett was “willfully cooperating in his investigation of the narcotics trafficking ring.”
Sinnigen also posted photos of Arquiett’s young child and niece, potentially placing them in harm’s way, as well.
Initially, the Justice Department claimed that Arquiett had “implicitly consented by granting access to the information stored in her cellphone and by consenting to the use of that information…” While the department is reviewing its policies, it has admitted no wrongdoing on the part of Sinnigen.
“The Department of Justice promised to review the behavior at issue in this incident and today we have found a fair resolution to this case,” U.S. Attorney Richard S. Hartunian said in a statement.
The sting operation did manage to ensnare two fugitives who were fooled by the account.
The case bears resemblance to a similar 2007 sting, in which the FBI concocted a fake Associated Press story to trick a suspect into clicking the web link and revealing his location.
While FBI Director James Comey defended his agency’s actions, the Associated Press cried foul and is still “reviewing options” for further action.