Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Attorney Charged With Creating False Match.com Profile For Opposing Counsel And Other Online Dishonesty

A complaint just filed by the Illinois Administrator alleges misconduct that will definitely draw some public attention

At all times alleged in this Complaint, Respondent practiced law as a partner at Thomson & Weintraub law firm located in Bloomington, Illinois until February 10, 2017 when he was terminated.

Jane Doe ("Doe") is a licensed Illinois attorney and partner in a law firm located in Bloomington, Illinois.

Respondent and Doe appeared as opposing counsel in 17 proceedings in McLean County. Respondent and Doe appeared as opposing counsel in seven proceedings between June 2016 and February 2017.

In September 2016, Respondent accessed the Match.com online dating website from his office computer ("desktop") at Thomson & Weintraub and created a false online dating profile ("Match.com profile") in Doe’s name.

In establishing the Match.com profile, Respondent created an online account in Doe’s name. Respondent associated a user name, password and email address with the Match.com profile.

The Match.com profile included the following false representations:

 

Doe was separated from her husband;

 

Doe’s children sometimes live with her;

 

Doe smokes but is trying to quit;

 

Doe regularly drinks alcohol;

 

Doe is agnostic;

 

Doe is 56 years old;

 

Doe does not exercise and enjoys auto racing and motor cross;

 

Doe has cats; and

 

Doe’s favorite hot spots are the grocery store, all restaurants, the Pizza Ranch, all buffets and NASCAR.

Respondent knew the representations...were false at the time he made them.

In September 2016, Respondent used his desktop to download several photos of Doe from her firm website and then uploaded those photos to the Match.com profile he created in Doe’s name.

In September 2016, Respondent uploaded the Match.com profile to the Match.com website so that it could be viewed by the general public.

At the time Respondent created and posted/uploaded the Match.com profile in Doe’s name, Respondent knew that the profile was false.

At no time did Doe authorize Respondent to create and post/upload a Match.com account in Doe’s name.

At no time did Doe authorize Respondent to create a user name, password and email address that Respondent associated with the Match.com profile.

At no time did Doe authorize Respondent to create and post/upload a Match.com profile in Doe’s name.

At no time did Doe authorize Respondent to upload the Match.com profile to the Match.com website.

On or around October 5, 2016, Doe became aware of the Match.com profile Respondent had created.

Doe filed an action in the Circuit Court of McLean County under case number 16-MR-1081 asking the court to direct Match.com to provide Doe with the Internet Protocol ("IP") address associated with the Match.com profile.

On December 9, 2016, Match.com provided Doe with the IP address associated with the Match.com profile.

On January 20, 2017, Comcast, the internet provider for Respondent’s firm, provided written notice to the firm that the firm’s IP address was used to create the Match.com profile.

On or about January 20, 2017, Terrence Kelly (hereinafter "Kelly"), a partner at Thomson & Weintraub informed the firm employees that the firm’s IP address was used to create a false Match.com profile for Doe.

On or about January 20, 2017, Kelly asked Respondent whether he had created the false profile. Respondent denied creating the false Match.com profile for Doe.

Respondent’s statement to Kelly was false because, in fact, Respondent had created the false profile.

At the time Respondent made this statement to Kelly, he knew that his statement was false.

On or about January 20, 2017, Kelly announced that the firm would be hiring a computer expert to examine all of the firm computers. Kelly also asked firm employees to provide their personal devices to the computer experts.

On February 10, 2017, a search of the firm’s desktop computer assigned to Respondent revealed that a user of the computer had accessed the set-up pages of the Match.com website and had downloaded Doe’s photo from her firm’s website and uploaded that photo to the Match.com profile.

 On February 10, 2017, when Kelly confronted Respondent with the findings of the computer expert, Respondent admitted that he created the false Match.com profile for Doe. Respondent was immediately terminated.

Alleged violation is set forth 

engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation, by accessing the Match.com online dating website and creating an account and a false online profile in Doe’s name that included false representations about Doe’s marital status, children, religion, personal habits and interests, uploading the false profile to the Match.com website to be viewed by the general public, and denying that he created the false profile in Doe’s name when initially asked by a partner in his firm, in violation of Rule 8.4(c) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010).

He is also charged with creating false accounts in Doe's name with the Obesity Action Coalition, Pig International, Auto Trader, Diabetic Living, creating a false Facebook account and posting false unfavorable lawyer reviews for Doe.

As to Obesity Action

As a result of Respondent’s actions, Doe began receiving daily emails from the OAC, and emails from Apollo Endo-surgery. Doe also received a lap-band kit in the mail at her business address.

As to Pig International

Pig International is a global nutrition and health publication for pork production. Members of Pig International receive daily emails about pork production.

Auto Trader

As a result of Respondent’s actions, Doe began receiving emails from Auto Trader and other new and used car dealerships, including numerous telephone calls on Christmas Eve.

As to the Facebook account it is alleged 

After Respondent created the false Facebook account, Respondent created a negative review of Doe’s professional ability and uploaded/posted the negative review to the Facebook page of Doe’s law firm so that the negative review could be viewed by individuals who accessed the Facebook page of Doe’s law firm.

At the time Respondent created the Facebook account for "John Kollengrade" and created the negative review of Doe’s professional ability, Respondent knew the account and review was false.

The Pantagraph reported on the underlying allegations. (Mike Frisch)

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2017/08/a-complaint-just-filed-by-the-illinois-administrator-at-all-times-alleged-in-this-complaint-respondent-practiced-law-as-a-p.html

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