If You Insist on Committing a Crime, Do Not Fess Up on Facebook

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
July 19 2013 11:41 AM

If You Insist on Committing a Crime, Do Not Fess Up on Facebook

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A police car with lights flashing.

Photo by JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images

Back in the olden days (the mid-’90s), Jay Leno’s Monday night headline bit was the go-to source for criminal foibles. Every week it seemed a burglar would leave his cat at the scene of the crime or some equally absurd version of botched debauchery. Of course, these days social media has given the average criminal a whole new toolbox for self-incrimination.

This week we celebrate Rashia Wilson, the self-proclaimed “Queen of Tax Fraud.” Wilson somehow racked up about $20 million, including cash for a $90,000 sports car and a $30,000 birthday present for her 1-year-old daughter. Her Highness was finally brought to justice after authorities were tipped off to some not-so-humble-bragging on her Facebook page. But I get it—what good is being the queen unless everybody from high school knows it? Here’s the bigger question: Will Facebook even be around when she gets out of prison in 21 years?

Sadly, Wilson is far from the first or last of her ilk. Just this weekend a Florida man—not to be confused with the awesome Twitter account @_FloridaMan—was arrested after taking to Facebook to comment on his own wanted photo. His “friends” eventually turned him in, but not before he could call the Pasco County Sherriff’s Office a bunch of fools and argue with commenters on the county’s Facebook page about the image they chose to upload as Fugitive of the Day. “And by the way [expletive] bag that picture was for my license,” the man typed. “I think it would look weirder if I wasn’t smiling.” Good one, guy.

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In honor of our fellow humans, let’s review five other oversharers from the archives, sad souls who simply couldn’t resist the siren song of social media.

1. Anybody know a good hitman?: After being accused of raping an intoxicated woman at a party, Corey Christian Adams used Facebook to solicit a hitman by posting, “I got 500 on a girls head who wants that bread?” Imagine Adams’ surprise when the contract killer who contacted him was actually a police detective in disguise.

2. Drunk posting: Jacob Cox-Brown is lucky to have made it home alive the night he allegedly got drunk and bashed up a bunch of parked cars on the way home. However, his luck ran out when he posted the following message to Facebook: “Drivin drunk ... classsic ;) but to whoever's vehicle i hit i am sorry. :P” One of Cox-Brown’s frenemies alerted police to the post, who had already been investigating the hit-and-run. Cox-Brown’s is a cautionary tale both against drunk driving (duh) and posting to social media while apparently under the influence.

3. Illegal friend request: Imagine you’ve finally gotten away from a bad relationship and have a court order against your ex ever contacting you again. And then—ping—he sends you a Facebook friend request. This is how Dylan Osborn was sentenced to 10 days in jail, though he was let out three days early because he claimed Facebook automatically sent the request to everyone on his email list—unbeknownst to him. Said Osborn, “I certainly hadn’t intended to contact my wife. ... I didn’t even know she had a Facebook account. To be honest, I don’t think the judge understood how it works either.”

4. Always remember to log out: Jonathan G. Parker is accused of burgling two diamond rings during a daytime robbery. Did the cops track his DNA from the scene of the crime or interview a neighbor who witnessed the whole thing? Nah. Dude seems to have logged into his Facebook account on the house computer and then neglected to sign off before fleeing. I wonder if checking up on everyone’s pictures of babies and cupcakes was worth it.   

5. Speaking of food pictures: If you’re going to kill and eat an endangered species in a foreign land, you might consider keeping it on the down-low. In 2009, Vanessa Starr Palm and Alexander Daniel Rust were arrested for allegedly grilling an iguana in the Bahamas and then posting the photos to Facebook. No word on what Instagram filters the couple might have used, but I’m an advocate for Lo-Fi—it really makes the greens pop.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Jason Bittel serves up science for picky eaters on his website, BittelMeThis.com. He lives in Pittsburgh. Follow him on Twitter.