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Federal Law Enforcement Uses Facebook to Arrest Fraud Suspects

Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation recently traveled to Orlando to arrest two individuals who were suspected of credit card fraud. The two people who were arrested are a couple from Brazil who were in Florida on vacation and had been posting information and photos from their trip to the social networking site Facebook.

The arrests were made after several months of investigation, according to court documents. Federal agents believed that the couple had been using stolen credit cards. The man had posted photographs of himself shopping and going to nightclubs and casinos while he was in Florida. This confirmed his location for police who eventually tracked him to the Orlando airport before he was scheduled to depart to return home.

These types of cases provide an important reminder that law enforcement agents are social-media savvy and that companies do provide access to private pages for law enforcement purposes. This means that information that one posts online could result in criminal liability, even though many people are mistakenly under the impression that Facebook posts are protected by the First Amendment and therefore could not lead to charges. However, the First Amendment only protects from criminal prosecution for the speech itself, not the speech as evidence for other types of conduct. In fact, police often use written communications to lead them to other types of information or evidence about a suspected crime.

In this case the man was charged with two counts of trafficking in a counterfeit device. Since these are federal charges and involved interstate activities, he could face major penalties and a long prison sentence if he is convicted.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, "Feds use Facebook to track credit-card fraud suspects vacationing in Orlando," Amy Pavuk, Nov. 15, 2013.

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