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.