- A Petito family attorney sent a cease and desist letter to the attorney representing Brian Laundrie.
- Richard Stafford demanded that Steven Bertolino not post photos of Petito “to gain business.”
- The letter was sent after a now removed photo of Gabby Petito appeared on a Yelp page for Bertolino.
The attorney for Gabby Petito’s family on Wednesday issued a cease and desist letter to the attorney representing Petito’s fiancé, Brian Laundrie, and his parents, demanding that he not post photos of Petito online “in an effort to gain business.”
Richard Stafford, an attorney in New York who’s representing Petito’s family, sent the letter to Steven Bertolino, a fellow New York lawyer, after a photo of Petito appeared on an unclaimed Yelp page for Bertolino.
The image — which was uploaded by a Yelp user — was removed minutes after Stafford sent his letter by that same Yelp user, a spokesperson for Yelp confirmed.
“The Petito and Schmidt family are demanding that you remove Gabby Petito’s picture from your Yelp page,” Stafford wrote in the letter to Bertolino. The letter continued, “The family tried to remove their daughter’s picture from your page and were informed that only the business owner can add or remove pictures.”
Stafford added: “Furthermore, the Petito and Schmidt family demand that you cease and desist posting pictures of Gabby Petito to any and all of your social media pages, web pages or advertisements in an effort to gain business.”
“I am sure this will be taken care of by 2pm or I will take further action on behalf of Gabby’s family,” Stafford said.
In a text message to Insider, Bertolino called Stafford’s accusations “sad.”
“I have never used social media or any other electronic platform for advertising other than maintaining a Web site,” Bertolino said. “I do not control the internet sites nor the hacks and public that have been overrunning the internet with fake comments and posts.”
Bertolino went on to say that on Tuesday, Yelp had to shut down its page for his firm “due to inordinate and unconfirmed posts.”
“I would certainly agree with Mr. Stafford that any such post he is referring to should be removed, but advise him that I have no control over that Yelp site,” he said.
Bertolino said he was made aware that Petito’s image was on the Yelp page on Tuesday. “So I looked at it and there was an overlay on the page that said the page was temporarily shut down until [Yelp] could verify the authenticity of the posts.”
Bertolino also said he has “not advertised or sought business” in more than 20 years, and that he “would certainly not use this case to drum up any business.”
Yelp said businesses cannot remove photos on their business page. Only the user who uploaded the photo or Yelp’s content moderators can remove it.
Yelp confirmed that the Yelp page for Bertolino was “unclaimed,” and that an “unusual activity alert” was placed on the page on Tuesday.
Negative reviewers flooded Bertolino’s Yelp page
Meanwhile, the Yelp page for Bertolino was flooded with negative comments after he took on Laundrie — a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance and now death — as a client.
The FBI confirmed on Tuesday that it was Petito’s body that was discovered in a remote campsite of a Wyoming national forest on Sunday after the 22-year-old New York native went missing while on a cross-country road trip with Laundrie.
The Teton County coroner initially determined her manner of death to be a homicide, but her cause of death “remains pending final autopsy results.”
Laundrie was named a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance on September 15 after he returned to the home in North Port, Florida, where he lived with his fiancée and his parents. On September 1, he’d returned, without Petito, in the van the couple had been traveling in.
His family reported him missing on September 17, and authorities have continued to search for him in Florida’s Carlton Reserve.