Facebook helped the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office charge a wayward father for failing to pay child support.
Christopher Robinson, 23, is facing three felony counts of failure to support his 3-year-old child, according to a complaint filed with the criminal division of the Wisconsin Circuit Court.
The complaint indicates that for three years, Robinson never made any of the required $150 monthly child support payments.
But pictures that Robinson posted to Facebook that show him posing with cash and bottles of liquor helped the district attorney’s office build a case against him.
“What we do in these types of cases is we try to find out from other family members whether there is other information we may not be able to know about,” Milwaukee County Chief Deputy District Attorney Kent Lovern told ABCNews.com.
Although Lovern said he could not talk specifically about Robinson’s ongoing case, he said, “Facebook has become a repository for information that we may not … know about.”
Investigations into Facebook profiles must be initiated by a complaint, Lovern said. When there’s enough evidence to suggest a sufficient level of probable cause, the DA can then ask the court to order Facebook to grant access to a Facebook profile.
Investigators can then look for details on whether a person has been misleading about his or her lifestyle, Lovern said. For example, said Lovern, “Someone who claims to not have resources to make their payments, actually does have resources.”
While it’s not known exactly whose money Robinson had displayed in his Facebook photos, or how he might have come to acquire such sums, the images allowed the district attorney’s office to obtain a search warrant to investigate further.
“It is an investigative tool,” Lovern said of Facebook. “It can be effective in assisting in the investigation and prosecution of certain criminal targets.”
A representative for Facebook told ABCNews.com, ”We work with law enforcement to the extent required by law, and as needed to keep the site and those who use it safe. Facebook devotes significant resources to evaluating requests for user information, and adheres to the letter of these laws when responding to requests for information.”
Robinson was served with an arrest warrant in February and failed to appear in court. The arrest warrant is still active, but the DA’s office would not comment on whether it was actively looking for him, or if he had a lawyer.
Several attempts by ABCNews.com to reach Robinson were not successful.
If found guilty on all three counts, Robinson could be sentenced to a maximum of almost 11 years in prison.