The FBI was able to track down a woman who allegedly set two Philadelphia police cars on fire during a George Floyd riot by utilizing an Etsy T-shirt review, social media photos, an online shopping profile, and LinkedIn.
Lore-Elisabeth Blumenthal was charged with arson of two Philadelphia Police Department vehicles this week. The 33-year-old woman allegedly torched the cop cars during the riots on May 30.
FBI agents examined over 500 photos that were posted on Instagram and other social media platforms. Blumenthal’s tattoos and her T-shirt stood out. She was wearing a shirt that read: “Keep the Immigrants, Deport the Racists,” according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Investigators discovered that only one place sold the exact same shirt, a seller on Etsy. A user by the name of “alleycatlore” left a five-star review for the Etsy store that sold the shirt a few days before the riots. Agents searched the username and found a matching profile at the online fashion store Poshmark, which listed the user’s name as “Lore-elisabeth.”
The FBI searched for “Lore Elisabeth” in the Philly area, and found a LinkedIn profile for a female massage therapist in Philadelphia. That massage therapy business shared videos of her work, which revealed a woman with the exact same peace symbol tattoo on her forearm that was seen in the Instagram images.
FBI tracked the woman down at her home in Germantown, Pennsylvania. The Department of Justice charged Blumenthal for setting two cruisers parked in front of city hall on fire. Blumenthal allegedly threw a flaming piece of wood from a police barricade into the window of two police cruisers.
The Department of Justice said that the case was investigated by the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the Philadelphia Police Department, and the Philadelphia Fire Marshal’s Office. There was also assistance from the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.
“Social media has fueled much of the protests, and has also become a fertile ground for government surveillance,” Paul Hetznecker, a criminal defense attorney representing Blumenthal, told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “I think people have lost awareness of that.”
“The question is whether they’ve undermined the privacy interests of everyone based on the search for one or two individuals,” Hetznecker said of the way investigators tracked down his client using social media. “That’s the same paradigm that was used to profile Muslims after 9/11, the same paradigm used for profiling African Americans.”
Blumenthal is currently in federal custody. She faces a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years in prison if convicted and a fine of up to $250,000.