Is law enforcement using Facebook to bust pot users?
September 17, 2014
By KAREN VELIE
Law enforcement agencies throughout the country are using Facebook to help them catch criminals, and on the Central Coast, officers may have taken it a step further.
Many departments are now training officers on how to navigate Facebook. In some cases, officers have arrested criminals who touted their illegal acts on social media sites.
In other situations, officers can learn more about suspects by watching their social media pages.
For example, Timothy Janowicz was a 29-year-old Atascadero man who died of an overdose while in custody in the San Luis Obispo County Jail in May. On his Facebook page, one friend posts copies of text messages from a criminal with a long rap sheet claiming he has paid someone to assault a young women he suspects of talking to law enforcement.
Mike to Devon on Janowicz’ Facebook page: “Next time i see you is on sight. I just gotta round trip ticket for 300 plus. Now i feel bad that i didnt smash you myself.. especially since you are such a piece of shit. Wait till you get a load of my crew… they been doin homework on you 500 cash. Sam put money on your head….borrowed it from me. And jeannie.. said she powders her nose harder than you hit.”
Included in the posts on Janowcz’ Facebook page are photos of alleged drugs.
In addition to keeping an eye on suspected criminals’ social networking activity, some officers have created fake online identities they use to befriend suspects and view private information they provide only to their Facebook friends.
Locally, several sources claim local law enforcement has set up several fake online identities to entice suspected pot users to meet at local clubs. These accounts usually include information on where the phony person works and went to school.
For example, “Summer Johnson” is a Facebook identity who claims to be a student at Cuesta College. The 23-year-old woman, who in her profile picture is biting her teeth into a giant bag of marijuana, says she lives in Avila Beach.
However, Cuesta College does not currently have a Summer Johnson enrolled, college administrators said.
CalCoastNews contacted multiple online friends of Johnson, however, none had actually met her. Of those communicated with, many had criminal records, others, including a well-known chef at a local restaurant, said they had been given medical marijuana recommendations from Dr. Atsuko Rees, before her files were seized by local law enforcement.
They all agreed to Johnson’s friend request as 1,452 others have, and who now are in line to receive posts by Johnson.
“SLO Brew tonight…………Anyone gonna be there?????,” Johnson says on her Facebook page.
Sources assert that an earlier invite to Motav, a San Luis Obispo nightclub, resulted in two arrests.
However, not all local attorneys can easily access the information, as several prominent local criminal attorneys have been blocked from being able to view Johnson’s Facebook page, a local attorney confirmed.
Tony Cipolla, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department public information officer, said that the department does not comment on investigative tactics it may or may not employ.