While traveling on business in Las Vegas, a 40-ish business consultant in the midst of a divorce met what he thought was a comely young maiden who was the romantic answer to all his problems.
Further, what happened in Las Vegas didn't stay in Las Vegas. Indeed, the fallout of a romance gone wrong would haunt the Chicago businessman — painfully, and for many months — because the focus of his ardour — Texan Jessica Jiahui Lee — didn't appreciate it when he decided the two should go their separate ways.
Lee posted a comment on Instagram that foreshadowed her resentment of being dumped.
"I don't get mad. I get even," she said, including the hashtags "#illruinyourlife, #becareful and #dontmakemad."
That wasn't hyperbole. Lee unleashed a campaign of vengeance that forced her former beau to hire a lawyer and, using a pseudonym of "John Doe," file suit in Chicago federal court against her on a variety of grounds. They included defamation, false light invasion of privacy, vandalism/damage to property and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
The litigation was short-circuited when Lee's lawyer withdrew from the case, her subsequent non-participation prompting U.S. Judge Charles Korcoras to enter a default judgment against Lee. The judge ordered Lee to pay $2.6 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages.
"This court finds the defendant's complained-of conduct to have been of such a pervasive nature that it justifies damages beyond those of reputational harm; defendant's conduct rises to levels warranting exemplary damages," Judge Korcoras concluded.
In addition to the civil damages she owes, Lee also faces felony charges in Cook County in connection with her alleged conduct. Lee recently appeared in court for arraignment, posting $30,000 in bond to win her release from jail.
What prompted this romance to run off the rails?
They met in February 2017 and embarked on a seven-month dating relationship. The two traveled together, and Lee even invited Doe to Texas to meet her parents.
Ryan Jacobson, Doe's lawyer, said his client was in an "emotionally vulnerable state" because of the breakup of his 10-year marriage and "found solace in Lee to whom he confided his own personal and work-related challenges."
But, eventually, the bloom came off the rose. Doe discovered that his new girlfriend, who had presented herself as a 25-year-old business consultant, actually was "an exotic dancer and professional 'sugar baby.'"
"Futher digging revealed that (Doe) had not been her only suitor, and that Lee was engaging in multiple, for-profit relationships wherein she offered sexual favors in exchange for (expensive) jewelry, apparel and travel to luxury resorts and spas throughout the world."
That's when Doe called it quits, and Lee began demanding his time and money, threatening "there would be consequences" if he did not comply. Doe did not comply, and Lee, the lawsuit alleges, retaliated with gusto.
The lawsuit is instructive in that it reveals how a tech-savvy person can use the Internet to cause problems for a hated enemy.
Judge Korcoras said "Lee connected with Doe's friends, family, work colleagues and clients using impostor social media profiles. She also registered him for male-seeking-male sites and other online services so that he would be bombarded with calls, texts and inappropriate advances," Korcoras found.
She invited Craigslist visitors and her "30,000 Instagram follows" to "stalk, harass and retaliate" against Doe based on fabricated allegations that Doe had raped Lee, that Doe had raped her non-existent 9-year-old daughter and that Doe was a serial abuser of women and 'apathetic, unethical in his business practices.'"
She also bombarded him with texts that alternated between insults, pleas for forgiveness and threats like "I gave you fair warning what would happened if you disrespected me and threw me away." Lee even posted fake conversations online between herself and Doe in which he ostensibly admitted how awful his behavior had been.
As a consequence, Doe alleged that he felt personally humiliated before hundreds of family members, friends, co-workers and clients. He also felt fear for his safety and that of his friends.
In December 2017, Doe received a text "from an untraceable number" that advised him to "WAKE UP AND CHECK YOUR INFINITI."
Doe's car, parked in his building's garage, was severely damaged — three of four tires punctured and flat, super glue inserted into the locks and scratches "on all four panels of the vehicle." The vehicle also was defiled with "spray-painted swastikas."
All that barely scratched the surface of Lee's campaign against Doe, which continued after he filed his federal lawsuit and, judging by circumstance, still might not be over.
"I couldn't even list everything she did in the (38-page lawsuit complaint)," said Jacobson, Doe's lawyer.
Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached at email@example.com or 217-351-5369.