Christian school trust sues unknown hacker sending misleading e-mails

Kelly Holleran Feb. 18, 2010, 3:10am

The financial foundation of a Beaumont Christian school has filed a lawsuit against an unknown person it claims is sending out misleading e-mails on behalf of the trust that contradict its philosophy of providing college preparatory education in a Christian environment.

Southeast Educational Foundation Trust, a non-profit trust which supports Beaumont's Legacy Christian Academy, claims it maintains a secure, confidential electronic e-mail database of parents, graduates, donors and alumni that it uses to send out mass e-mails.

Despite the trust's efforts to keep the e-mail list confidential, someone has managed to break into it and has sent false and misleading messages to those on the list in an attempt to damage the trust and its reputation, according to the complaint filed Feb. 10 in Jefferson County District Court.

The trust claims its reputation is essential to its success.

"The Plaintiff contracts with families in the Southeast Texas area to provide a college preparatory education in a distinctly Christian environment," the suit states. "As such, its students and the families of those students expect to be involved in an educational atmosphere that emphasizes not only a strong academic curriculum, but one with a strong emphasis on Christian characteristics and teachings."

Since the anonymous person started sending e-mails in May 2009, the trust has received phone calls from people on the list, who are angered that they are receiving unauthorized e-mails. They are demanding Southeast Educational Foundation Trust cure the problem, the complaint says.

And the trust has attempted to do just that, requesting that the unknown person stop sending e-mails, according to the complaint. However, the e-mails have failed to cease.

"The defendant assumes an anonymous identity using computer domains with public access, such as Google, Facebook, and others," the suit states. "The defendant refuses to stop the e-mails even after repeated requests from Plaintiff and other recipients. Such activity threatens the existing contractual relationships that Plaintiff has with the families and students that attend its school."

Because of the e-mails, the trust claims it has lost students, which has resulted in lost tuition; has lost goodwill and has lost and suffered permanent injury to its reputation.

It is seeking injunctive relief from the court to prevent the unknown person's continuing use and disclosure of the e-mail list and is asking the court to require the disclosure of the person's true identity.

It also wants the court to enjoin the defendant from engaging in any activity that disseminates false and misleading information about the trust, to prevent the defendant from disclosing the false e-mails and to enjoin the defendant from deleting any documents that relate to the issues in the lawsuit.

In addition, the Southeast Educational Foundation Trust is seeking lost profits, pre- and post-judgment interest, attorney's fees, costs and other relief the court deems just.

R. Lyn Stevens of Stevens, Baldo, Freeman and Lighty in Beaumont will be representing it.
The case has been assigned to Judge Milton Shuffield, 136th District Court.
Jefferson County District Court case number: D185-899.

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