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March 27, 2000 10:24am
Woman Seeks Damages for Fake Escort Ad
Source: APBnews
by: Lisa Holewa

(TAMPA, FL) -- "I'm easy," read the advertisement in the escort services section of Internet giant Yahoo's classified ads.

But what's really easy, said Debra Roth, who is suing her 18-year-old stepdaughter over the ad, is using the Internet to ruin someone's reputation.

Her civil lawsuit filed in a Florida circuit court claims her stepdaughter defamed her and harmed her cabinetry business by placing the free ad, which listed Roth's name and her business telephone number. She is seeking at least $15,000 in damages from the teen.

"My goal is to try to get some laws passed to protect people from being victimized," Roth told APBnews.com today from her business in Brooksville, about 45 miles north of Tampa.

A call from 'Jeff'

She said legislation is needed to prevent people from using the Internet to spread misinformation, but she refused to comment further or go into specific details of her case because of the pending lawsuit.

Her lawyer, Tom Hogan, was out of town today and unavailable for comment.

According to the lawsuit, filed earlier this week in Hernando County Circuit Court, 18-year-old Melissa Roth posted the ad when she moved out of her father and stepmother's Spring Hill home last month to go live with her mother.

A few weeks later, a man who identified himself as "Jeff" called Roth at her Custom Home Cabinetry business, saying he was calling about the Internet ad. When Roth told him she didn't know what he was talking about, he hung up. He then called back a few minutes later to say he had double-checked and there was an ad in Yahoo's classified advertisement section that listed her name and phone number, according to the lawsuit.

Told brother it was a joke

That night, Roth went online and found the ad in the escort services section. She called Yahoo, and the service promptly removed the ad, according to the lawsuit.

But she said the damage already was done.

"Roth has had her character defamed and has been exposed to unwanted, frightening and harassing telephone solicitation," her lawsuit says. "[Her business] livelihood is directly dependent upon [her] reputation, and [her] telephone number had been published on the Internet in conjunction with the malicious and false advertisement."

The lawsuit also seeks an injunction barring Melissa Roth from printing further information about her stepmother.

Melissa Roth, who has moved to her mother's home in nearby Winter Haven, could not be reached by APBnews.com for comment.

But according to a report filed with the Hernando County Sheriff's Office earlier this month, Melissa Roth spoke with her brother shortly after the man's call and told him she had placed the ad as a joke and forgot to remove it.

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