Woman, 22, is arrested 'after posing as her boyfriend and sending death threats to herself' in a 'nightmare' plot that had him jailed and fired
A 22-year-old Texas woman has been arrested after prosecutors say she attempted to frame her boyfriend on trumped-up charges of domestic violence and bribery in what has been described as a 'nightmare' catfishing conspiracy.
Lisa Marie Garcia, of Baytown, was arrested on Thursday and charged with retaliation and online impersonation.
The woman is accused of creating fake Instagram accounts and using cell phone apps to make it seem as if her boyfriend, 23-year-old Brandon Berrott, was threatening her. It is reported that couple have been locked in a custody battle.
If convicted of the charges against her, the 22-year-old could be looking at up to 10 years in prison.
Investigators say Garcia's elaborate online scheme initially worked, leading to Berrott's first arrest in September on a charge of making terrorist threats.
When his girlfriend continued receiving menacing text messages, Berrott, who had been released on bond, was sent back to jail for violating the terms of his release, which included a prohibition against contacting Garcia.
‘He didn't do any of this. He was charged with eight criminal cases and is innocent of all of them,’ prosecutor Britni Cooper told Houston Chronicle. ‘I'm horrified, actually, and can't imagine what this guy went through. It's a nightmare.’
The man’s lawyer says that Garcia’s scheming has cost his client his job, in addition to tens of thousands of dollars in bond payments and legal fees.
Berrott was first arrested on September 16 after his girlfriend contacted the Baytown Police Department, telling them that he threatened to kill her. The 23-year-old man has a child with Garcia, and also with another woman, reported KTRK.
According to prosecutors, after Berrott was released on bail, Garcia launched a fake Instagram account in his name and proceeded to send threatening messages to herself and her romantic rival.
She then shared the bogus threats with the Baytown Police Department and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.
Between September 16 and October 31, Berrott was arrested eight times, and each time he made bail.
Determined to keep him behind bars, according to prosecutors, Garcia would send more fake threats to herself and then complain to the police, accusing her boyfriend of violating the conditions of his release by contacting her.
Berrott was eventually fired from his warehouse job, but Garcia did not stop there – and may have overplayed her hand, eventually resulting in her own arrest.
On Thanksgiving weekend, the woman called the mayor of Baytown and claimed that Berrott's mother, who works for Harris County, had bribed District Judge Brad Hart so he would free him on bond.
Officials launched an investigation into the couple, which revealed inconsistencies in Garcia’s complaints about Berrott. In one instance, according to his lawyer, she claimed to have received a threat from him while he was handcuffed in the back of a police car.
The woman continued getting threatening messages from her boyfriend, even as he was cooperating with the investigation to clear his name, according to prosecutors.
Attorney Carl Moore, whom Berrott hired to try and clear his name, said he believes Garcia concocted the plot because she wanted his client to give up his parental rights, but he was determined to stay involved in his child's life.
His lawyer told the station KHOU he blames the local police department for continuing to file charge after charge against him without getting to the bottom of Garcia’s litany of complaints sooner.
But the department has sought to defend itself, arguing that Garcia was very convincing, and that their top priority is to protect a person whose life appears to be threatened.
Berrott is considering pursuing legal action against the police department over its handling of the case.
All charges against the man have been dismissed, and both his mother and Judge Hart have been cleared of any wrongdoing.
Berrott's former employer, the Goose Creek Independent School District, said he is welcome to reapply for his old job.