A protester in the US could face 80 years in jail after social media and her customised Etsy T-shirt exposed her as a Black Lives Matter rioter who scorched two cop cars.
Investigators tracked down Lore-Elisabeth Blumenthal, 33, via an Etsy page selling the top branded with “Keep the Immigrants Deport the Racists”, say prosecutors in Pennsylvania.
US lawyer William McSwain announced that Blumenthal, 33, a massage therapist of Philadelphia, has been charged for the arson of two Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) vehicles.
The attorney’s office said there had been “peaceful protests in the early afternoon of May 30 in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis”.
But it added “civil unrest began to unfold later in Philadelphia that resulted in widespread looting, burglary, arson, destruction of property, and other violent acts”.
This included Blumenthal allegedly setting fire to both a police sedan and sport utility vehicle parked on the north side of City Hall, the office added.
Vice reports that her arrest shows how “police are finding novel ways to use social media and other internet breadcrumbs” to track down suspects.
FBI agents identified Blumenthal because of data freely available online, starting with aerial footage shot on the day of the protests.
There was also an Instagram picture and photos taken by an amateur photographer, linked to a forearm tattoo and the Etsy T-shirt.
In its court documents, the US lawyer said that various videos taken at the scene allegedly captured Blumenthal wearing protective goggles and gloves.
It’s claimed she was filmed “taking a flaming piece of wooden police barricade from the rear window of the sedan that was already on fire, and then shoving the flaming wood into the SUV that was not on fire.
“Within minutes, the SUV was also completely engulfed in flames. As result of the fires, both PPD vehicles were destroyed.”
Investigators delved into shopping site Etsy plus various social media platforms, including Instagram and Vimeo, to arrest the massage therapist, the federal complaint continues.
FBI agents had spotted her distinctive forearm tattoo and political T-shirt.
The Top 10 News explains that the next clue came courtesy of a review on an Etsy page selling the custom-made shirts.
Court documents say the username was linked to someone named Lore-Elisabeth in Philadelphia.
Then her name was found on LinkedIn, showing a woman employed as a massage therapist in the city.
And videos on a company’s website show a woman giving massages with a peace-sign forearm tattoo that matched Blumenthal’s.
The website helpfully listed a phone number for the therapist, which feds used to track down her address in Philadelphia’s Germantown section.
Blumenthal was then arrested on Tuesday, June 16.
US lawyer McSwain said: “We fully support the First Amendment right of the people to assemble peaceably and to petition their government.
“But torching a police car has nothing to do with peaceful protest or any legitimate message.
“It is a violent and despicable act that will be prosecuted in this district to the fullest extent of the law.
“Anybody who engaged in such acts can stand by to put your hands behind your back and head to federal prison.
“We are coming for you.”
Michael Driscoll, Special Agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division, said that the protest was “sprinkled with agitators whose sole purpose was to commit crimes and cause chaos.
“As alleged, Blumenthal came prepared for just that, carrying out these arsons that destroyed property and put many lives at risk.
“Sadly, such acts also hijacked the message of the day’s demonstrators, whose calls for change were obscured for a time by the smoke from all those fires.”
If convicted, she faces a maximum possible sentence of 80 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $500,000, the attorney’s office said.