Woman jailed after setting up fake Facebook account to frame ex-love

Technically Incorrect: A California woman accuses her ex-boyfriend of stalking, kidnapping and beating her, and says his Facebook account proves it.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

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Some people go to considerable lengths to hurt their exes.

© Jochen Eckel/dpa/Corbis

It all sounds so very easy.

Stephani Renae Lawson wanted to get her ex-boyfriend into trouble.

So in 2015 the Las Vegas resident set up a fake Facebook account, used it to suggest that he had stalked her, kidnapped her and beaten her, and then went to the police with her accusations.

As the Orange County Register reports, the fake Facebook account was part of her evidence. Charges were brought against her ex, Tyler Parkervest of Irvine, California.

Parkervest first appeared in court this time last year. After all, she'd filed a total of eight police reports against him. The Facebook account in the name of "Tyler Parker" was, Lawson claimed, used to threaten her from testifying, among other things.

But it was screenshots of that Facebook account that led the district attorney's office to wonder whether this was all as it seemed.

Prosecutors asked Facebook and T-Mobile to disclose Lawson's phone and IP records. "We had to go around and around with them all summer until we got the documents we needed," Deputy District Attorney Mark Geller told the Register.

25-year-old Lawson pleaded guilty to two felonies -- one count each of false imprisonment and perjury. On Wednesday, she was sent to jail for a year.

While some might ponder what would drive an ex-lover to take such extreme measures, others might consider that it appears to have been easy for Lawson to open a fake Facebook account.

The site has been keen to claim that it's strict about only real people being users. Its policy clearly states: "The name on your profile should be the name that your friends call you in everyday life. This name should also appear on an ID or document from our ID List."

How, then, did Lawson manage to set up an account in a fictional name? Facebook wouldn't address this specific case, but a spokesman told me that the company has "a dedicated team that's tasked with helping to detect and block these kinds of scams."

He said the company has developed several techniques including whether the recipient of a friend request already has a friend with the same name. He added: "We have also developed an alert that is sent when we discover multiple accounts with the same profile photo and name. The person receiving the alert has the option to report the account as a fake impersonating account."

Still, it doesn't seem too hard to be a fake on Facebook. For example, Texas Tech football coach Kliff Kingsbury gladly admitted earlier this year that his coaching staff sets up many fake Facebook accounts in the names of young women in order to check up on his players.

This despite Facebook's policy that says: "Pretending to be anything or anyone isn't allowed."

What is and isn't fake on Facebook is currently the subject of a great debate. This case does nothing to make it any clearer.

Update, 4:57 p.m. PT: Added comment from Facebook.