Facebook is usually just a running feed of pictures, talk about the weather, links to lists and quizzes, and inspirational quotes. (Mine is, anyway; maybe your friends are more exciting.) But sometimes Facebook status updates are a little more interesting. And by “interesting,” we mean “criminal.” Here are 11.
1. Millions of people have posted photos of cars on the world’s most popular social network, but pictures of stolen cars (and in this case, a lawnmower) are shared less frequently. Probably because it’s not a good idea, as five men from Loomis, California discovered earlier this week. The pics posted by one man were identified as stolen property by another resident of the town, who then alerted authorities. When police arrived, they found a chop shop operation and five new tenants for the Placer County Jail.
2. When a judge orders a ban on social media for jurors during a testy court case, maybe the best idea is to obey that order. Maybe the worst idea is to ignore it, rant on Facebook about how much you hate jury duty, share details of the case with your 500 closest friends and family, and then lie about it under oath when the judge finds out. A Boca Raton man has been charged with contempt for doing exactly that, and faces up to six months in jail if convicted.
3. As reality TV stars and criminals have taught us time and again, some selfies aren’t for sharing. A Florida man, confident in his ability to sell drugs undetected, posted photos of himself in his car holding a bag of marijuana. In the background, a local police cruiser is clearly visible at a stop in the next lane. Police took the next photos of Port St. Lucie’s sneakiest drug dealer … during the undercover sting that landed him in jail. (That photo was posted to Facebook as well.)
4. In movies where people intend to commit a crime, there is usually a scene that involves disabling any nearby cameras. But two brothers from New Jersey did it backward: They filmed themselves setting fire to an abandoned mobile home, and then, as you might expect, they shared the video to reap those sweet, sweet Likes. Around six hours later, both men were arrested and waiting for someone to post their $100,000 bond.
5. What does the law say about a motorist’s ability to shoot video while driving and screaming at people who ride bicycles? At least one part of that—threatening cyclists with a motor vehicle—is considered reckless endangerment. No charges were filed for driving while filming in the case of one Alabama man, whose Facebook videos were spotted by a bicycle news writer and reported to police. After his arrest, the offender posted a much more thoughtful update: “I am truly sorry for anyone I may have offended... and please everyone share the road and be very aware of bicycle riders everywhere.”
6. You may be wondering what to do should you ever find yourself in possession of $5,000 worth of stolen goods—namely, rare coins, vintage comics, electronics, and a painting of Hank Williams. The wrong answer is “Try to sell them on Facebook.” A Bridgeport, Tennessee, man chose to do so in May 2014 and found himself in city jail. Some items, which he’d already sold, are still missing, but the rest were returned to their rightful owner before the man’s arrest.
7. Let’s say you’ve decided to break into someone’s home. The people who live there own a semiautomatic rifle, which you steal. One thing you definitely shouldn’t do is take the gun home, post a bunch of pics to Facebook of yourself holding it, and then have a four-hour standoff with the police when they come to arrest you. Unfortunately, a man in Abilene, Texas, chose option B, so authorities were able to identify him easily from his many and varied gun-wielding selfies. Even more unfortunately, he was a convicted felon—so having a gun is illegal—and now faces charges for theft on top of previously unresolved parole violations.
8. In 2011 a woman in the UK was drawing income support, housing benefit, and council tax benefit, citing single parenthood and unemployment. But then a city investigator noticed that the woman’s Facebook page was filled with photos of her family enjoying vacations to Turkey and an elaborate wedding in Barbados (to the husband she said she didn’t have). In addition to her 120-day prison sentence, she was ordered to pay back the £15,000 she’d swindled from taxpayers.
9. A teen inspired by the film Shank, in which gangs take over London, posted a series of updates encouraging his Facebook friends to “kill a million Fedz” and one taking requests for a planned looting trip. “Rioting 2nyt anyone want anything from Flannels?” earned him a sentence of 33 months in jail.
10. Don’t tell the Internet you’ve kidnapped a woman… especially if you haven’t. An Illinois man did, and the cops received a tip from a concerned acquaintance. No unwilling resident was found; the updates were apparently “part of a creative writing project,” but the heroin residue, bag of marijuana and bathroom “covered in white powder” were very real.
11. When a Lehigh Valley man discovered his wife was cheating on him, he began posting all manner of horrifying things to Facebook, which were then reported to authorities and the FBI. He threatened his estranged wife, a former employer who fired him, an FBI agent, and most frightening of all, a plan to attack schoolchildren: “Hell hath no fury like a crazy man in a kindergarten class." The man claimed the updates were rap lyrics he wrote, but jurors were unconvinced.