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Fake Facebook page leads to ID theft charge

October 27, 2011 |  7:24 am

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Facebook pages are not to be taken lightly, as a New Jersey woman has learned. She's been charged with identity theft for allegedly creating a fake Facebook page using her ex-boyfriend's name, photograph and personal information and sprinkling it with comments intended to disparage the man.

She's now challenging New Jersey's identity theft laws by arguing that they don't apply to the alleged crime.

Granted, a fake Facebook page isn't the most graceful way of bemoaning a bad breakup, and it probably didn't help that the ex is also a police detective. But the angry former girlfriend, Dana Thornton, and her lawyer say she did nothing against the law, and they will seek to have the identity theft charge thrown out at a court hearing next week.

“The statute as it exists really is aimed at people who actually go into a store with a phony credit card, for instance, and use that number and assume that name while committing a crime,” said Thornton's attorney, Richard Roberts, the Associated Press reported. “When you’re talking about things that get put on the Internet, you’re getting into free speech.”

Thornton, who is 41, faces up to 18 months in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors acknowledge that their state's law -- unlike some -- does not specifically mention Internet identities in its ID theft statute, but that Thornton's behavior harmed the reputation of her former boyfriend, a Parsippany police detective named Michael Lasalandra. (Don't bother searching -- the fake Facebook page has been removed.)

In court papers, the Morris County prosecutor's office said that even if the law does not mention Facebook or other social media, it makes clear that assuming another person's identity to injure someone is illegal. And Facebook also makes clear on its Help Center page that being a Facebook impostor is not permitted.

"Certainly it would damage his good name, standing or reputation if false comments and assertions” about Lasalandra were circulated, the court papers said.

The Daily Record has more on the case. Thornton's court date is set for Wednesday.

-- Tina Susman in New York

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Photo: The home page of Facebook. Credit: Nicholas Kamm / AFP/Getty Images

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