'Unthinkable, immoral act': Woman ordered to pay $375,000 for sabotaging
boyfriend's musical career
When McGill student Eric Abramovitz won a scholarship to study with a
prestigious L.A. professor, Jennifer Lee began a ‘despicable’ scheme of fake
emails to stop him
June 19, 2018
A McGill University music student who impersonated her clarinetist boyfriend on
the internet to sabotage his career and prevent him from moving away from her
apartment in Montreal has been ordered to pay him $375,000 in compensation.
A judge has found this “despicable interference” in the boyfriend’s musical
career was a deep betrayal that robbed him of “a unique and prestigious
educational opportunity, one that would have advanced his career as a
Jennifer Jooyeon Lee and Eric Abramovitz met at McGill’s Schulich School of
Music in September 2013 and started a romantic relationship almost right away.
By October, he lived in her apartment, and trusted her so much that he let her
use his laptop, and gave her his passwords.
Both were accomplished musicians, she in flute, he in clarinet, for which he had
won several competitions and been featured on CBC Radio 2.
That winter, Abramovitz applied to finish his degree under Yehuda Gilad, a top
professor of clarinet at Colburn School in Los Angeles, part of the University
of Southern California. This was a career goal for Abramovitz, to learn from the
best, and after flying with his parents to L.A. to audition for one of just two
spots, he was told to expect an answer by April 1, 2014.
knew that something underhanded was afoot"
As it turned out, Abramovitz won the spot, and a full scholarship to study with
Gilad. School officials emailed him to say so, but Lee intercepted the email.
Posing as Abramovitz, she wrote back to decline the offer, saying he would be
“elsewhere.” Then she deleted the offer email.
Abramovitz would likely have eventually followed up with the school, not having
heard anything himself. But there was another step in Lee’s deception. She
created a fake email account in the name of the famous clarinet professor —
— to send a new fake offer email, purportedly from the professor.
“In this fake email, Ms. Lee wrote that Mr. Abramovitz had not been accepted at
Colburn,” the judge wrote in his decision. Instead, the email offered him a
different spot at USC under Gilad’s direction, but with only a modest
scholarship of $5,000. Abramovitz would still have to pay fees of about $46,000,
plus living expenses, which Lee knew he could not afford.
“She apparently did these things so that Mr. Abramovitz would not leave
Montreal, and instead would stay in Montreal and remain in his relationship with
her,” Judge David Corbett of Ontario Superior Court ruled.
Abramovitz was “completely taken in by this deception,” the judge found. He
accepted the missed opportunity, finished his bachelor’s degree at McGill, and
eventually took a less prestigious graduate certificate at USC, in which he had
some interaction with Gilad, about an hour a week, but far less than he would
have had under his original scholarship.
Gilad swore an affidavit in support of
Abramovitz’s case, explaining how Abramovitz’s career path was disrupted. After
getting a position in Nashville, Abramovitz has recently taken a position with
the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
“I am certain that had Eric not been robbed of his opportunity to study with me
two years earlier, he could already have won an audition and been commanding
this respectable salary two years earlier,” Gilad said in an 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
In an interview, Abramovitz explained how he discovered the ruse months later,
long after his relationship with Lee ended in September 2014 for unrelated
It was at his second audition before Gilad, in which they had a brief and
strange interaction, when Gilad said, “Why did you reject me?”
It was a fair question. As Abramovitz put it, “You don’t reject him.” But having
done nothing of the sort, Abramovitz asked in return, “Why did you reject me?”
They could not sort it out then and there, but over time, the wonder lingered.
Another student of Gilad’s asked him about it. Eventually, Abramovitz forwarded
the fake email to Gilad, who replied: “I’ve never seen that in my life.”
“That’s when I knew that something underhanded was afoot,” Abramovitz said. One
day in 2015, he and a friend set about trying to gain access to the fake email
account, and because Abramovitz and Lee once shared a computer, he knew one of
her passwords, which he tried.
“Miraculously, it logged right in,” he said. Her email was listed as the
recovery email, her phone was the recovery phone. “We felt like Sherlock
Abramovitz also said she did a similar thing involving fake emails with his
successful application to the Juilliard School in New York, causing him to
He said he is not certain he will be able to collect his damages, as he does not
know where she is and she has blocked him on social media.
Lee could not be reached. She did not appear at the proceeding that led to this
default judgment against her. Much of the ruling is taken up with the judge’s
decision on why the case was properly heard in Ontario, Lee’s primary residence,
and not Quebec.
The damages she must pay him are for “loss of educational opportunity and loss
of income caused by redirection of Mr. Abramovitz’s career resulting from Ms.
Lee’s wrongful conduct,” the judge wrote. Ambramovitz also sued for loss of
reputation, and although the judge decided there was some, he decided his
scathing ruling would more or less solve that problem by pointing out Abramovitz
was found worthy of the opportunity to study with Gilad, and it was entirely
Lee’s fault that he did not.
“Imagining how his life would have been different if he had studied for two
years under Mr. Gilad, and earned his teacher’s respect and support, requires
more speculation than the law permits. One hears, particularly in the arts, of
the ‘big breaks’ that can launch a promising artist to a stratospheric career. I
cannot speculate as to how high and how quickly Mr. Abramovitz’s career might
have soared, but for the interference by Ms. Lee. But the law does recognize
that the loss of a chance is a very real and compensable loss.”
Professor Yehuda Gilad