Fake Identities Were Used on Twitter in Effort to Get Information on Weiner
At least three months before the revelation that former Representative Anthony D. Weiner was sending lewd messages and photos to women online, a small group of self-described conservatives was monitoring his exchanges with women on Twitter. Now there is evidence that one or more people created two false identities on Twitter in order to collect information to use against him.
A Twitter user employing a fake name posed as a 16-year-old California high school girl in May and tried to get Mr. Weiner to be her prom date, according to people with knowledge of the communications and a review of documents. The person behind another Twitter account created under a fake name claimed to be her classmate and offered to provide the group with incriminating evidence about Mr. Weiner.
Mr. Weiner, who resigned on Thursday after admitting he had sent explicit photos and messages to multiple women on social media sites, had already been the subject of intense focus on Twitter by the conservative group, which calls itself the #bornfreecrew.
One Twitter user the group observed seeking to interact with Mr. Weiner was called “Nikki Reid.” She started an online campaign to get Mr. Weiner to be her prom date at Hollywood High School in May, using the account @starchild111. Within days after Mr. Weiner started following her, a Twitter user, also using a fake name, Marianela Alicea, and pretending to be Nikki Reid’s classmate, contacted a member of the #bornfreecrew and said she had information about Mr. Weiner, but never provided any.
But there is no evidence that either girl exists. There is no Nikki Reid or Marianela Alicea enrolled at Hollywood High School. In response to requests from a reporter from the blog Mediaite, a woman claiming to be Nikki Reid’s mother provided documentation to substantiate her identity and her daughter’s identity. But records show the street address the woman provided does not list anyone named Reid as an occupant. State officials in California have confirmed that the driver’s license this woman provided to Mediaite was false, as well.
It remains unclear who is behind the fake Twitter accounts, why anyone was trying to pretend to be a 16-year-old high school girl looking for Mr. Weiner to be her prom date or why the user contacted members of the #bornfreecrew. As an increasing number of politicians and elected officials use social media tools to engage with constituents and deliver their message, the prospect of people not using their real identities presents potential pitfalls and opportunity for political opponents to play dirty tricks.
The @starchild111 Twitter account, which was deleted two weeks ago, was created in September. There were very few posts on the account until March, when the fictional Nikki Reid began posting comments about admiring Mr. Weiner, including:
“Tweeps my progressive idol @RepWeiner is following me. Today is the best day ever!”
“Today also marks day one of my campaign to get @RepWeiner to be my prom date.”
“Will you be my prom date @RepWeiner.”
“Everyone please please follow @RepWeiner and tell him to be my prom date.”
The Twitter user also sought to interact with at least three other women Mr. Weiner was communicating within the weeks and months before he sent a sexually suggestive photo to a Washington state college student. The women included Gennette Cordova, 21, the college student; Ginger Lee, 24, a former pornographic film actress from Tennessee who exchanged over 100 e-mails with the congressman; and a Delaware high school student, 17, whose family said she exchanged five private messages with Mr. Weiner that did not include indecent or explicit material.
In an interview, Ms. Cordova said she was contacted on Twitter by “Nikki Reid,” who said she admired one of her posts and then began exchanging private messages with her almost every day for three or four weeks starting May 5. “There was something weird about it,” Ms. Cordova said. At the beginning of their exchanges, Ms. Cordova said, there was no mention of Mr. Weiner. Then the user began to ask her for advice saying, “I’m a fan girl too,” and “How did you get him to follow you?”
When Ms. Cordova saw that Mr. Weiner was following “Nikki Reid,” she said, she expressed her suspicions about the girl’s identity to him in a private message and he stopped following the account.
Mike Stack, 39, of New Jersey, a member of the #bornfreecrew on Twitter, said that when he saw that “Nikki Reid” began her campaign to get Mr. Weiner to take her to the prom, he sent her a message that said he thought it was “creepy” that Mr. Weiner was following a minor. He said he had no reason to believe that the account was not genuine.
A few days later, Mr. Stack said, he was approached by the Twitter user who said that she was Nikki Reid’s friend and that she had “incriminating evidence” against Mr. Weiner regarding private messages with her friend. But Mr. Stack said that she never presented any evidence to him and that the user of the account stopped communicating with him and eventually vanished.
Then, in what seems to be an elaborate ruse, the Twitter user claiming to be Nikki Reid and then a woman claiming to be her mother contacted Tommy Christopher, a correspondent for Mediaite, the media blog. After first communicating online, Mr. Christopher said, the woman dismissed claims of incriminating evidence against Mr. Weiner and accused members of the #bornfreecrew of harassing her daughter and her daughter’s friend. The woman also made a statement, which offered a forceful defense of Mr. Weiner.
She repeated this by phone to Mr. Christopher, who insisted the woman provide documentation confirming her identity. The woman faxed over a copy of a California driver’s license with her name, Patricia Reid, at a Los Angeles address, as well as school identification for the girls. But it turns out that the driver’s license and the school identification were fake, according to California state officials and school district officials.
Ms. Cordova said that as she looked back on their exchanges, she saw other signs of a fraud. For example, “Nikki Reid” did not have a Facebook account, like most girls her age. And she made references to “The O.C.,” the television show (featuring the young Hollywood actress Nikki Reed) that was popular among teenagers but ended in 2007.
“There is no way this girl is in high school,” Ms. Cordova said. “No way.”