In 2010 Sondra Arquiett (who went by the name Sondra Prince) learned her online identity had been appropriated when a friend queried her about her Facebook photos. As it turned out, DEA agents had used data from her seized mobile phone to set up a fake account and communicate with Arquiett’s friends and associates in the hope of discovering incriminating drug information.
Arquiett pleaded guilty in 2011 to a drug conspiracy charge. Court records show she was sentenced in 2012 to time served and given a period of home confinement. In 2013, Arquiett sued the Justice Department claiming she had suffered from “fear and great emotional distress” as the fake profile implied she was cooperating with a federal investigation. She argued that it put her at risk from the “dangerous individuals” the DEA agent/s were communicating with.
The Justice Department defended the fake profile by saying Arquiett “implicitly consented by granting access to the information stored in her cellphone and by consenting to the use of that information to aid in… ongoing criminal investigations.” However, the tactic has since gained public attention and raised privacy concerns by Justice Department officials in Washington.
The Justice Department reached a $134,000 settlement with the New York woman and a federal judge has not yet ruled on the legality of the DEA’s questionable actions.