DALLAS (CN) — In a lawsuit against a Toyota dealer, a Texas pastor claims its employee lifted compromising photographs of his wife from his cellphone and submitted it to a swingers website.
Tim and Claire Gautreaux sued Texas Toyota of Grapevine, Toyota Motor North America and Texas Toyota employee Matt Thomas on Thursday in Dallas County Court.
The Gautreauxs say they were at the car dealer in January 2015 to buy a new car. Tim says he unsecured his phone, handed it to employee Jerrod Hudson after being asked about a preapproved financing application and got his phone back after a few minutes.
“When Tim opened his phone to show [finance manager Milton] Cordero the application, a photograph of his wife, Claire, in a compromising stage of undress appeared on the screen," the complaint states. "Upon seeing this private year-and-a-half old photograph, Tim began to grow greatly concerned about the personal and professional ramifications of the dissemination of this personal information."
The Gautreauxs say their "worst fears were confirmed" when Tim called up an application on his phone that tracks and saves deleted email messages.
"Within a few minutes of giving Hudson his phone, an email of a screen shot of the pre-approved financing application was sent to the business e-mail address of Matt Thomas, one of Grapevine Toyota's new car sales directors, as well as what appears to be one of Thomas' personal email addresses," the complaint states. "The next two emails sent two different compromising photographs of Claire to the e-mail address 'mrandmissterious.com.' Further investigation has revealed this email address is believed to be associated with a swingers' website and a couple who live in Garland, Texas."
The Gautreauxs say they confronted another Toyota employee, who promised to investigate and fire anyone responsible.
"After being at Grapevine Toyota’s dealership for almost six hours, until 10 p.m., the Gautreauxs were not informed that anyone was being held responsible for the gross invasion of their privacy," the complaint states.
The couple's attorney, Gloria Allred in Los Angeles, said at a news conference Thursday that her clients were "victimized by a phone predator."
"These actions have caused the Gautreauxs to suffer humiliation and mental anguish, particularly because they do not know who has seen these photographs or may see them in the future," Allred said.
Claire Gautreaux told reporters she came forward to "make sure that it does not happen to anyone else" and to "prevent others from being victimized" as she was.
"I never imagined that anyone else would see it, let alone that they would send my picture to an email address associated with swingers," she said. "We were at a Toyota dealership to buy a car and not to share anything about our lives with the people there."
The Gautreauxs say they have suffered "severe humiliation, embarrassment, frustration and mental anguish" and that Tim's standing and reputation may be "irreparably tarnished."
Matt Thomas was arrested in November 2015 on a class B misdemeanor charge of computer security breach, according to Tarrant County Court records. He pleaded not guilty and the criminal case is pending. His next hearing is scheduled for Dec. 29.
Toyota Motor North America declined to comment on the allegations, but said the dealership is independently owned.
"Toyota Motor North America does not own, operate or manage Toyota of Grapevine; it does not hire, fire or direct the day-to-day activities of the dealership’s personnel; and it is not involved in matters concerning employees of independent dealers," the company said in a statement.
The Gautreauxs seek more than $1 million in damages for negligence, intrusion upon seclusion, breach of contract and violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. They are also represented by Jose Portela with the Beckham Group and Larry Taylor with the Cochran Firm, both of Dallas.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.