The Drug Enforcement Administration set up a fake Facebook account using photographs and other personal information it took from the cellphone of a New York woman arrested in a cocaine case, to trick her friends and associates into revealing incriminating drug secrets.
The Justice Department initially defended the practice in court filings but now says it is reviewing whether the Facebook guise went too far.
Sondra Arquiett’s Facebook account looked as real as any other. It included photos of her posing on the hood of a sleek BMW and a close-up with her young son and niece. She even appeared to write that she missed her boyfriend, who was identified by his nickname.
But it wasn’t her. The account was the work of DEA Agent Timothy Sinnigen, Arquiett said in a federal court lawsuit. The case is scheduled for trial next week in Albany, N.Y.
Justice Department spokesman Brian Fallon said in a statement Tuesday that officials were reviewing both the incident and the practice, although in court papers filed earlier in the case the government defended it. Fallon declined to comment further because the case was pending.
Arquiett is asking for $250,000.
A spokesman for Facebook declined Tuesday to comment on the legal dispute. Facebook’s own policies appear to prohibit the practice, telling users, “You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.”