Crime and Courts
Chief investigative reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.

NYC Attorney Indicted in Dirty Politics Plot Using Fake Facebook Pages

Prosecutors say the Staten Island attorney is the con man behind fake Facebook pages made to look as though a state assembly candidate was posting despicable comments

What to Know

  • A Staten Island attorney is facing felony identity theft and attempting to influence an election charges for setting up fake Facebook pages
  • Richard Luthmann is accused of setting up the pages made to discredit several politicians, including state assembly candidate Janine Materna
  • Materna ended up losing the race; her lawyer says she's devastated about what was posted about her and that it harmed her

In what could be a first of its kind case, a Staten Island attorney has been indicted on multiple felony charges for allegedly making fake Facebook pages in order to discredit a state assembly candidate. 

Richard Luthmann, who's already in federal custody in an unrelated fraud and kidnapping case, is facing charges including identity theft and attempting to influence an election. 

Prosecutors say he's the con man behind the Facebook pages that made it look as though Staten Island state assembly candidate Janine Materna was posting despicable comments about people with disabilities. Materna ended up losing that race. 

"Janine was devastated by what Richard Luthman posted about her," said Andrew Stengel, Materna's attorney. "Fake positions, defamatory statements. It harmed her reputation.' 

The fake Facebook pages, which were made to discredit several Staten Island politicians, were first exposed by the I-Team back in May, perhaps a tale of politics in 2018 -- you can't believe what you read on social media. But many people did believe it, and the consequences were dangerous, as Materna told the I-Team earlier this year.

"I got threats, I was getting death threats," she told the I-Team. "People said they wanted to slash my face. They want to run me over with a car." 

But the people behind social media hijacking are rarely exposed and rarely punished. 

"I tried reaching out to Facebook and saying this wasn't me," said Materna. "They consistently said it wasn't harassing me." 

Luthmann's attorney didn't returns News 4's calls for comment. But he previously posted on Facebook, admitting he created the fake pages. His own Facebook posts could land him behind bars.

"Janine owes a huge debt of gratitude to the I-Team and Sarah Wallace and all her colleagues for continuing to follow this story," said Stengel. 

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