A motion filed in Superior Court says there is proof that El Cajon councilman Ben Kalasho and his wife are behind fake social media accounts used to defame a local beauty queen and restaurant.
A civil lawsuit was filed earlier this year against the councilman and his wife, Jessica. It claims the woman who won in 2016, Zhala Tawfiq, was stripped of her title and not awarded the total prize money she was supposed to receive.
The lawsuit claims around that time, a fake Instagram account was also created that posted the beauty queen’s face on top of other naked women’s bodies.
The motion filed Monday says there is computer evidence to support the plaintiffs’ claims that the Kalashos were behind the Instagram account.
The documents say “Instagram identified the IP address.” The court documents say it traced back to a close friend of Ben and Jessica Kalasho.
During her deposition, Jessica Kalasho said she was with that friend the weekend the pictures were published. The Kalashos are also accused of defaming the business, 3 Brothers Taco Shop, known as the Tres Taqueria restaurant.
The court documents say the Kalashos were behind a fake poll calling them the “worst Mexican food in El Cajon.” This was in retaliation for not posting Kalasho’s campaign signs on the restaurant property, according to the documents.
It alleges fake Facebook profiles used to defame the restaurant “were accessed at least 194 times from the Kalasho’s El Cajon home.”
Two other plaintiffs are named in the lawsuit. Attorney Lina Charry and another former beauty queen Paris Kargar, also accuse the Kalashos of defamation.
It calls the behavior of the Kalashos "outrageous conduct consisting of fraud, harassment, and defamation conducted both online and in person."
In a written response to Team 10, Ben Kalasho released the following statement:
"The filing is comprised of untruthful allegations. IP addresses which are open to the public aren't proof. No evidence has been produced to me or my counsel to date, everything thus far has been pure allegation. Their counsel was accusing me of making the doctored up nudes when this case first started, last month he was accusing another associate of ours and now he is accusing a former queen.
He is just harassing everyone at this point. This is nothing but a fishing expedition for money. It's pretty sad that we live in a society where greed and fabricated stories are normal just for 5 minutes of fame. IP addresses on open networks don't prove anything. And, different individuals can use an IP address at different times (such as at a public library or Internet cafe or Open Networks like we had at our home).
Often, many individuals using a public or private network that use network address translation (NAT) may share a public IP address. Thus, IP addresses pose additional hurdles and are thrown out by judges. IP addresses can also be spoofed, i.e., a criminal actor can forge an IP address and thus “leave some other person’s fingerprints” or a criminal actor can relocate his illegal content from one IP address to another, or host that content from multiple IP addresses and thus leave lots of fingerprints over time.
All this can be done by just parking outside my home. All the plaintiffs know where I live and work. We have footage of them parked outside my home. I have on a number of occasions offered my laptop to be searched and scanned by a forensics expert to prove I had nothing to do with any of the untruthful allegations against me, but the Plaintiffs Lawyer has chosen to ignore my offer because he knows that it will destroy his case.
Their game plan is to drag this into the media for as long as possible. We look forward to trial and will not be bullied, harassed or intimidated.”