SPARTA, NJ – A Succasunna woman last month planted pills in the backpack of a Sparta High School student and then, hiding her phone number, texted the school to say the student was using and selling the drugs on school property, police said.
The woman, Beth Weickert, never admitted her actions when questioned, but evidence developed by police led them to file charges against her on Feb. 1, said Sparta Police Sgt. Dennis Proctor.
In a statement, Proctor said Weickert was charged with third-degree cyber harassment, third-degree endangering the welfare of a child, third-degree obscene material for a person under 18, fourth degree filing of false reports and fourth degree fabrication of evidence.
The case began Jan. 3, when Sparta Police were called to Sparta High School because school personnel, acting on an anonymous tip received via text message, found pills in a juvenile’s backpack, Proctor said.
He said 13 white pills were confiscated by police. They were later found to be an oxycodone hydrochloride/acetaminophen mixture, police said.
“The juvenile was adamant that he did not know how this contraband got into his backpack” said the sergeant. Nevertheless, the youth was suspended from school and police initiated filing charges, Proctor said.
Eight days later, Sparta Police Detective Brian Hassioch spoke with the youth and his father and “began to look into the assertions the juvenile made about the contraband being planted in his backpack,” Proctor said.
The detective got - from the teacher who received the text messages - the “spoofed” phone numbers that were used to make the messages anonymous. Hassloch had identified Weickert as a suspect, but needed more evidence. So he and Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office Detective Tom Laird sought state grand jury subpoenas “to determine the origin” of the spoofed numbers, said Proctor.
Proctor explained spoofing “is the practice of causing the telephone network to indicate to the receiver of a call that the originator of the call is a station other than the true originating station.”
On Jan. 24, Hassloch interviewed Weickert, who “did not provide any further information about her involvement” with the matter. The next day, authorities learned – because of the subpoenas – that the spoofed numbers were traced to Weickert’s phone and Internet protocol (IP) address at her Succasunna house, police said.
Another visit to Weickert was made by the detectives on Feb. 1. “When confronted with the information about the origin of the text messages, Mrs. Weickert denied any knowledge of the incident,” Proctor said. “She requested a lawyer and all questioning ceased.”
The sergeant said police, hoping to protect the identity of the student, were not releasing information relating to their beliefs about motive or what they believe to be Weickert’s relationship with the youth. He did say the charges relating to obscene material relate to evidence Weickert sent an “explicit photo to a 15-year-old male,” but police didn’t say the youth was the same one found with the pills.
Weickert was processed and released, pending a court appearance, Proctor said.