The Husband and the Hacker: A Park Cities Divorce Gets Gets Weird, with Help from TheDirty.com
The Oberheiden Law Firm, a "full-service international law firm" headquartered in Dallas, has a small problem. Someone has been hacking into the email account of the firm's founder and principal, Nick Oberheiden, and has been registering scads of fake domain names with plans to publish the communications -- all of them private, many covered by attorney-client privilege -- on the internet. The intent, the firm believes, is slander, pure and simple, a blatant attempt to discredit Oberheiden and drive away clients.
So, naturally, the firm is suing to stop the person it alleges is responsible: Sydney Oberheiden, Nick's wife.
The bizarre lawsuit was filed last week and hinges, to a certain degree, on an anonymous post about Sydney on the gossip web site TheDirty.com. It's the first thing that pops up when you Google her name. She's a heartless gold-digger now on her third husband, it explains, with much nastier stuff offered up in the comments.
It's the type of bile anyone with a shred of decency wouldn't wish upon their worst enemy. Sydney would have preferred for the post to be taken down altogether, but that's not how The Dirty operates, at least not without a court order. So, according to the lawsuit, Sydney, hoping to limit the site's exposure, contacted a friend of a friend, a 28-year-old Uptown resident who runs a one-man SEO firm. For $8,000 per month, he agreed to get the post knocked to the second page of Google search results.
That was all arranged over the phone. They first met on May 24, after two or three weeks of phone calls, at Sydney's Park Cities home. And that's when things apparently began to get weird.
When the SEO guy arrived, he spotted guns on the table, according to a deposition he gave in the lawsuit. Two or three, possibly loaded but definitely real. "The engagement was very uncomfortable for me because there were weapons sitting out, and I just had never seen business done that way," he said.
It didn't help that Sydney held one of the guns for the duration of their meeting, handling it casually, occasionally waving the barrel so it passed across his torso. Nick had just filed for divorce, she explained, and she was preparing to take the guns to a neighbor's for safekeeping.
Being a professional, the SEO guy shrugged the incident off and went about the job he'd been hired to do. He began registering websites using variations on Sydney's name and was relatively successful. For a time, at least, The Dirty was knocked down several slots in the Google search results, though it later resurfaced.
By then, though, the mission had changed. Two days after their first meeting, Sydney told the consultant that she no longer cared about the website. She had more important things to worry about, namely a jealous ex whom she feared had raided and bugged her home and might come after her. She needed someone to stay with her, protect her. She had paid the SEO guy a lot of money, she reminded him.
He refused, but Sydney persisted. She called every day, often several times, which was one reason his girlfriend left him -- the other being the time he was four hours late to pick her up at the airport. At one point she showed up to his house, demanding to be let in. He refused until she told him through the door that Nick was kidnapping their daughter, a toddler, and taking her to Germany, where his parents live.
When he finally let her in, she stayed for two days. He slept on the couch. On one occasion, according to his deposition, he awoke to find Sydney "caressing my gluteus -- my gluteus maximus, my rear end in a very strange way as if she was -- over my clothes like she was rubbing oil on it ... but there's no oil and she just kept examining it. And I pretended like I was asleep, but I wasn't and I was not enjoying this, in full disclosure. I was just like what is she about to do. And then came the reach-around and then the same thing happened that happened the frst time. I shot up, ran to my office, shut and locked the door."
Another time, he was at Sydney's house. She wanted him to stay with her. She asked, according to the deposition, that he take off his shirt and get in bed. He refused, promising only to sit on the edge of the bed, hat, shoes and clothes on, until she fell asleep.
"What ended up happening, I laid down on the bed with my clothes on and woke up, I don't think two or three hours could have passed, with my pants undone and her playing with my genitals. And I zipped up my pants, tightened my belt and bolted out. And that really pissed her off," he said.
She later texted an apology, so he figured, according to the deposition, "You know, maybe she made a mistake by playing with my genitalia. She's not gonna do it again."
And she didn't. But she did, according to his deposition, try to draw him into a scheme to steal and publish Nick's confidential emails. She lent him one of her 15 or so computers and then, according to the deposition, used his login to mask her snooping in her husband's email account. She began buying domain names like nickoberheiden.com, a half dozen of them at least, with plans "to make Nick's life miserable."
Nick, too, sensed that something was up. When they traveled to Germany in June (it was a joint trip, approved by the divorce court), Sydney allegedly took the child and hid. As soon as Nick emailed his divorce attorney, who recommended contacting German authorities, Sydney reappeared with the child. Equally strange was that when Nick, with no previous notice, filed for divorce, Sydney was at the courthouse within the hour, filing a petition of her own.
It wasn't until July 9 that Nick learned exactly what was happening. Sydney was visiting a friend and left her laptop open, and that friend noticed that Nick's email was open on the computer. The friend made sure Nick knew about it.
And so, the lawsuit. The Oberheiden Law Firm is seeking unspecified damages, attorney's fees and a restraining order against Sydney, whom Nick accuses of theft, fraud, a host of other charges and, generally, conduct that is "immoral, corrupt, depraved, degenerative, lewd, perverted, shameful, unnatural, (and) sinful."
A number listed for Sydney rings once and then makes that screechy modem noise. I emailed her through one of those dummy website and left a voicemail with the person who owns the house she's listed as living in, but nothing yet.
Update on Aug. 2: A judge granted the request for a restraining order yesterday.
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