The New York City Police Department is being sued for $30 million, after erroneously using a woman’s face on a “wanted” poster on social media. The poster wrongly used an image of the Instagram model and influencer in a notice about an escort service worker suspected of theft.
According to lawsuit documents obtained by Atlanta Black Star, Eva Lopez, 31, filed her complaint with the Manhattan Supreme Court on Wednesday, March 9, against the NYPD after she was mistakenly featured in a “wanted” poster. The woman is suing for $30 million in damages, claiming she has experienced “emotional distress” as a result of the error.
Also named in the claim is the city, and a police detective, who knew before she contacted him that she was not the suspect for the crime and made no public statement rectifying the photo mix-up, Lopez says in her legal claim.
The headline on the flyer read, “Wanted for Grand Larceny. Perpetrator—probable cause to arrest” and detailed the alleged crime.
Directly under the red bolded-wanted headline is a picture of Lopez posing with a fuchsia tube top and multi-colored tights.
“The 9th Precinct Detective Squad is attempting to identify the subject pictured above for Grand Larceny. On August 3, 2021, the complainants roommate did reply to an online escort advertisement and while the subject was in his apartment at 178 2nd Avenue the subject did remove complainants Rolex watch valued at $13000 and a Chase credit card without permission or authority to do so,” the copy of the flyer read before directing the public to Detective Kevin Dwyer.
Lopez was not in Manhattan at the time of the crime, but was in Queens. She states the first time she was made aware of the poster was when her boyfriend notified her on Aug. 16.
According to the lawsuit, she and her boyfriend believed the “sign” was “photoshopped.”
The Daily News reports Lopez said, “I thought it was something fake. I really couldn’t believe the police would put me on a wanted poster.”
However, Joelle, her employer, suggested that she reach out to the officer and inform him of the mistake.
When she called Dwyer, the lawsuit states, he shared with her that he already knew the department featured the wrong woman.
The lawsuit states, “Detective Dwyer confirmed that he did think it was plaintiff Eva Lopez at first because the two victims showed them pictures of her and that it was for sure Plaintiff Eva Lopez.”
Then he “reiterated that [NYPD] conducted an investigation and found a surveillance video from the building and that although the female perpetrator did look similar” Lopez, “the female perpetrator had a sleeve tattoo on her arm” and Lopez “does not.”
The department apparently sought to remove the poster from its social media and other websites. By the time the decision to remove the alert was made, it had been shared all over the internet, Lopez claims.
Lopez, who personally shared the poster to her 862,000 followers on Instagram to say it was fake, said, “It was already spread around on social media. … It was still being passed around, still being talked about, still making me look like a thief and a prostitute.”
“On Facebook, the [wanted poster] got shared over thousands of times — 10,000, 20,000 times. Then on Instagram a lot of blog sites that have millions of followers, they posted it as well,” she continued.
Lopez said that her agent did a background check on her and several people at her job were gossiping behind her back about the validity of the flyer.
“It was just really, really embarrassing, not only for me but for my family as well,” the woman revealed.
Her attorney Mark Shirian wrote in the filing, “for defamation per se, libel, slander, intentional infliction of emotional distress,” among other things.
Shirian said in an interview that “The NYPD should commit to more thorough investigations before haphazardly accusing and identifying innocent people of fantastic lies and brazen crimes.”
The attorney suspects that the escort may have used some of her flicks from social media as her own, catfishing potential clients.
“Ms. Lopez was extremely upset and continues to be upset by the presence of her picture on the Wanted Sign,” the lawsuit read in part. “This incident has damaged Ms. Lopez'[s] personal reputation in her neighborhood and has damaged her professional reputation in her employment.”
Since the incident, Lopez’s Instagram account has become private.