A former McGill University student has won a court case against his ex-girlfriend, who impersonated him online as a way to prevent him from moving away, thereby holding back his career.
Eric Abramovitz is considered a gifted musician and has studied with some of Canada’s best teachers. He has won numerous awards and was studying at McGill when he met Jennifer Lee.
Lee was also a music student at McGill, and in 2013 they began an intimate relationship. He soon began staying at her apartment. He shared his laptop and his passwords with Lee.
Later that year, Abramovitz applied to study at the Coburn Conservatory of Music in California, which attracts some of the most promising music students. He applied to study under Yehuda Gilad, who only accepts two new clarinet students a year from dozens of applicants. He is recognized as one of the best clarinet teachers in the world.
Abramovitz was invited to a live audition at Coburn, and he and his parents flew to Los Angeles for the audition. He was told he could expect a final decision on his application by April 1, 2014.
In March 2014 Abramovitz was sent an email informing him he had been accepted. He was offered a place at Coburn to study under Mr. Gilad, with full scholarship.
But Abramovitz never saw it. Lee intercepted the email and replied to it. Pretending to be Abramovitz, she declined the opportunity, saying that he would “be elsewhere.”
Then Lee deleted the acceptance email and created a new email address: email@example.com. She emailed her boyfriend from the fake email address, pretending to be Gilad.
Her fake reply from Gilad said he had not been accepted at Coburn but that he would be offered a $5,000 yearly scholarship to study at the University of Southern California. The annual tuition at USC was about US $50,000, which Lee knew Abramovitz would not be able to afford and would consequently turn down, which he did.
“I was numb when I read the email. I had to read it a few more times,” Abramovitz said to Buzzfeed. “When I found out I didn’t get it, it was really hard to deal with. I went through some really dark, sad, angry days.”
“We were living together at the time so she was the one to console me when I found out,” he added.
As a result of the sabotage, Abramovitz lost the scholarship and the opportunity to study under Gilad. His life went a different way. Six months later he and Lee split up, with Abramovitz still unaware of what she had done. He stayed in Montreal and graduated from McGill. After that, he decided to apply to grad school at USC, still determined to study with Gilad, though it wouldn’t be as closely as if he had attended Coburn.
Once more, he went to audition for Gilad.
The two men met again, this time each believing that the other had rejected him.
“We went into a room to chat after I finished and he asked me what I was doing here,” Abramovitz said. “He was like, ‘You rejected me. Why are you here?'”
“I was like, ‘Uh, no, you rejected me,’ and he was like, ‘No, you did,’ and we had this awkward exchange where we kept going back and forth like that and I thought maybe he had confused me with someone else,” Abramovitz said.
But later another student asked him why he rejected Gilad. And Abramovitz realized that something wasn’t right. So he showed the fake rejection email to Gilad, who said he had never sent it.
One half of the truth was out.
Abramovitz and his friends began to dig, with Abramovitz first thinking the email must have been sent by a competitive clarinetist. But when one friend asked about Lee, Abramovitz began to get suspicious.
So they used a password of hers that Abramovitz knew to try and unlock the fake email address. It opened.
Abramovitz contacted Lee who then blocked him on social media. He hired a lawyer, and sued.
Lee did not show up in court to defend her actions.
“She apparently did this because she feared that Mr Abramovitz would move to California, away from her, perhaps ending their relationship,” Judge Corbett said in his ruling.
Gilad said in his affidavit, “I am very frustrated that a highly talented musician like Eric was the victim of such an unthinkable, immoral act that delayed his progress and advancement as an up-and-coming young musician and delayed his embarking on a most promising career.”
Corbett ruled that Lee owed Abramovitz for “scholarship, additional educational costs, and foregone income” and awarded him $300,000.
He tacked on another $25,000 in punitive damages to “address the reprehensible betrayal of trust by Ms. Lee.”
“This award expresses this court’s revulsion at what Ms Lee has done,” he said.
He also awarded $25,000 for aggravated damages “representing the incompensable personal loss suffered by Mr. Abramovitz by having a closely held personal dream snatched from him by a person he trusted.”
Despite that, Abramovitz considers himself fortunate.
“It’s very hard to know what my path would have been had this not happened, but I am happy and proud of myself because I landed on my feet,” he said. “I have no regrets. I have always aspired to make a living doing what I love, and I have.”