Ethics Train Wreck On Facebook: Jessica Studebaker and the Sneaky Voelkerts

The imaginary Jessica Studebaker

David and Angela Voelkert are so obviously perfect for each other. It’s just a tragedy that they can’t get along.

By the time the couple’s multiple deceptions were sorted out, Angela had been scared out of her wits, David had spent four days in jail, and federal prosecutors looked like they had never heard of Facebook. The perfect recipe for an ethics train wreck—lies, more lies, and incompetence—and that’s exactly what they got.

Last Friday, the FBI arrested David Voelkert, 38, a South Bend, Indiana man who had recently exchanged messages with a 17-year-old Facebook friend named Jessica Studebaker. As described in an FBI affidavit, Voelkert’s Facebook exchanges with Studebaker included telling her that he had placed a GPS device in his ex-wife’s car to surreptitiously monitor her movements, and that he was looking for “someone to take care of” Angela Voelkert, so the teen “ should find someone at your school…that would put a cap in her ass for $10,000.”

“Jessica” sent the messages to the authorities, and soon the FBI, which has apparently never heard of people pretending to be other people over the internet, was knocking on David’s door. Voelkert spent four days in jail before he was released after proving to investigators that he always knew that “Jessica” was really his ex-wife.  Yes, David knew his ex, all right: Angela Voelkert had created the fake Facebook identity to see if she could trick her ex-husband into making revelations that would give her ammunition in their bitter legal battle for custody of their children. David Voelkert showed the Feds a notorized affidavit pre-dating his Facebook correspondence with the fictional teen, in which he described receiving a friend request from a “Jessica Studebaker,” whom he suspected was really his sneaky ex-wife.

“I am lying to this person,” his sworn statement stated, “to gain positive proof that it is indeed my ex-wife trying to again tamper in my life…In no way do I have plans to leave with my children or do any harm to Angela Dawn Voelkert or anyone else.” Voelkert explained to federal prosecutors that he played along with the ruse so that he could use his ex-spouse’s conduct against her in their custody case.

The final standings in this unethical conduct derby:

1. Angela Voelkert. Fake on-line identities are per se unethical; adding a fake profile photo is strike two, and trying to entrap your ex-  by posing as a budding Anthony Weiner pal is despicable.

2. David Voelkert. His most ethical course would have been to call his wife out on her deception at the start, or just reject the friend request. Seeing how far she would take her charade is deceptive, and fails the “two wrongs don’t make a right” principle, but it is hard to blame him too much. (On “I Love Lucy,” Ricky Riccardo used to do this sort of thing to Lucy all the time.) The fake hit man request, however, goes far over any ethical lines. It was dishonest, mean, and cruel, even given Angela’s own despicable conduct.

3. The FBI. “I’m not sure I agree with you a hundred percent on your police work, there, Lou.”

4 thoughts on “Ethics Train Wreck On Facebook: Jessica Studebaker and the Sneaky Voelkerts

  1. Jack,
    David should have noticed something was amiss right away owing to “Jessica’s” rather ostentatious “Elvis” medallion. Considering the context it seems a tad anachronistic … unless he’s “in” again? If so, I should have saved my money on all the Justin Bieber iTunes downloads.


    “I used to be with ‘it,’ but then they changed what ‘it’ was. Now, what I’m with isn’t ‘it,’ and what is ‘it’ seems weird and scary to me.” – Abraham Jay Simpson

    • You should have saved your money on them anyway.

      Fashionable Bieber-bashing aside, I find it hard to blame David too much considering his ex sounds like… well, I’m not going to say it on such a reputable site. But I have to wonder how he suspected it was his ex in the first place? This is a dangerous path to go down without… certitude.

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