Etsy review helps FBI track down woman who set fire to police cars

PHILADELPHIA — The FBI was able track down a woman accused of setting fire to police cruisers in Philadelphia from information available to anyone on the internet.

Lore-Elisabeth Blumenthal was charged with the arson of two Philadelphia police vehicles after agents tracked her down using only a tattoo on her forearm and a t-shirt she bought on Etsy.

On May 30, peaceful protests in Philadelphia over George Floyd’s death turned into a night of destruction with store windows smashed near City Hall, merchandise taken from stores and police cars set ablaze. According to the Department of Justice, two cruisers parked in front of city hall were torched by an individual who prosecutors say took a flaming piece of wooden police barricade from the window of a police cruiser that was already on fire, and then shoved the flaming wood into a second cruiser that was not on fire.

Both vehicles were destroyed.

In the days following, federal agents used what’s called “open source intelligence” to track down Blumenthal in a matter of days. They first examined Instagram photos in which a person can be seen with a peace symbol tattoo on her forearm while holding a flaming piece of wood, according to KYW-TV. From the photos, law enforcement officials noted both the tattoo as well as the t-shirt she was wearing which read “Keep the Immigrants, Deport the Racists.”

Searching the T-shirt’s wording on Google, agents determined that it was offered by a seller on Etsy. They then examined the various reviews for the product, one of which, from user “Xx Mv,” gave the shirt 5 stars and said ”Fast shipping, thanks very much!” The user’s profile included “alleycatlore” and indicated that the user lived in Philadelphia, according to Vice.

Having found a person from Philadelphia, agents then searched “alleycatlore” on Google and with it found another online profile, “Lore-Elisabeth” on the online fashion store Poshmark. With a new search term “Lore Elisabeth Philadelphia,” law enforcement officials found a LinkedIn profile for a woman who is a massage therapist in Philadelphia.

In what would be the last clue needed, agents noticed that the Vimeo video posted on her business website showing Blumenthal giving massages with an identical tattoo to the one in the protest photos.

Blumenthal was charged with the arson of two police vehicles and is currently in federal custody.

The Department of Justice said that the case was investigated by the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the Philadelphia Police Department and the Philadelphia Fire Marshal’s Office, with assistance from the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.

The case is being prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The Department of Justice official news release can be found here.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.