Who and where is Prenda Law? What happened to John Steele?

Posted: May 25, 2012 by SJD in Prenda
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Graham Syfert is an attorney from Jacksonville, Florida. Those who follow the news concerning copyright trolling phenomenon, know him as an author of popular self-help forms for alleged file-sharers, which included, a motion for protective order, a motion to dismiss, an affidavit of defenses, and a template for a motion to quash a subpoena issued to ISP. It’s not a surprise that many trolls attacked Mr. Syfert, which only shows that he hit the nerve. Graham states that he doesn’t defend pirates, and respects copyright law, but genuinely despises trolls’ extortion-like “business”, and he continues to help many trolls’ victims. He was the source of this story.

1. The move to Sunny Florida


Copyright troll
John L Steele

Back in August 2011, we first heard that John Steele filed a change of address in many of his federal cases, moving to a Miami address. “Steele|Hansmeier, PLLC” now had offices in Florida and in Illinois, but no one in the firm was admitted to practice law in Florida. Despite that, Mark Lutz, the paralegal for Steele|Hansmeier at that time, was placing calls from Florida, and soon their letter writing operation got underway from their Lincoln Avenue, Miami address. Before this move John Steele’s divorce law office was in downtown Chicago.

At that time, none of demand letters, now coming from his Lincoln Avenue address, stated where John Steele was licensed to practice. The practice of letter writing of this kind by an unlicensed attorney is unethical, but apparently not anywhere near as big of a deal as an Illinois attorney opening up a branch office in Miami without having any attorneys licensed in Florida. Graham Syfert, annoyed with the phone calls from out-of-state attorneys and clients asking him how John Steele was practicing in Florida, filed the first bar complaint of his legal career, against John Steele, partner of Steele|Hansmeier for opening a law firm in Florida without a license.

It may have been pure coincidence, but sometime around the time Graham filed his bar complaint, a new name of a Florida licensed attorney began showing up on the letterhead of Steele|Hansmeier on Florida’s demand letters, that of a Florida licensed attorney who, as I found later, was never agreed to participate in the shakedown factory, yet Steele fraudulently used that attorney’s identity (surprised?). They also, around that time, changed the signatures of their demand letters to include in what states they are licensed to practice. We can only imagine that they believed that the solution to jumping the gun on the Steele|Hansmeier Miami branch office was to add a Florida partner.

On October 20th, 2011, a short while after the bar complaint was filed, a new company was formed, with Kerry Steele, Mr. Steele’s wife, at the head. The address was the same office as the old Steele|Hansmeier location at 1111 Lincoln Road, Suite 400, Miami Beach, FL 33139. The name of the business was Miami Beach Consulting, Inc. This company is now dissolved. (A month earlier Kerry Steele was reported as working in her husband’s Chicago divorce law firm, Family Law Lifeline, as a manager. No doubt, Mrs. Steele got many talents previously attributed only to Julius Caesar.)

2. The end of Steele|Hansmeier, and the beginning of Prenda Law

On November 7, 2011, Prenda Law was incorporated in Chicago, Illlinois, with Paul Duffy at the head; on the next day, Prenda Law was incorporated in Florida, also with Paul Duffy at the head. This is atypical: normally, the Florida attorney would be listed as the officer, and by all means he should be listed instead of Duffy. Steele|Hansmeier vanished from the scene for a while. There was talk of John Steele’s retirement in Florida.

On November 14th, 2011, about two months after the bar complaint was filed, John Steele, perhaps because of Graham’s bar complaint or perhaps coincidence, was requested to sign an affidavit of no unlicensed practice of law in Florida.

 

This is becoming a tradition: you may remember, as it was widely reported in the news, recently a copyright troll associated with Copyright Enforcement Group, Terik Hashmi, was caught practicing law in Florida without license after he signed the exactly same type of affidavit, which has opened him to criminal prosecution.

 

Sometime near November 15th, 2011, Prenda Law took over the Miami office, and began filing pure bill of discovery cases in Florida. Such cases were already being filed by Keith Lipscomb of Libscomb, Eisenberg & Baker PL by that time.

Steele|Hansmeier was dissolved on January 13 2012. Prenda Law took its place, and appears to be a interstate partnership between Florida licensed attorney Joseph Perea and Illinois (as well as DC) licensed attorney Paul Duffy. Prenda Law employs many attorneys in obtaining John Doe information, all over the country. They write letters today, and still fail to include some of this basic information that might help determine where they are licensed to practice.

Prenda Law has started to e-mail their demand letters, from the Florida office in Miami, and those demand letters contain the name of a Florida licensed attorney Joseph Perea. These e-mails, are being sent by a Mark Lutz, a paralegal in Florida, who was featured in the Mark Lutz Remix. During the winter, Prenda had previously requested payments sent to their offices in Miami, and are now asking for ransom money to be sent to Prenda Law at John Steele’s office at 161 North Clark Street in Chicago, Illinois. Confusing! Even more confusing is that Paul Duffy’s office not at 161 North Clark Street: it is across downtown in a different high rise at 2 N. LaSalle. John Steele’s office, however, is confirmed to be in 161 North Clark Street. Perhaps the letter writing operation has stayed down south, but the money collecting operation has moved up north! Like birds, for the summer, headed north. They seem to be hovering back and forth between Chicago and Miami.

There is plenty of evidence out there regarding recent filings of John Steele being located in 161 North Clark St.

Graham was not wanting to speak regarding any more current events except the recent change in demand letter, and would only state,

I am again being bothered by people from out of state who cannot tell if they are dealing with an Illinois matter, a Florida matter, or a D.C. matter, and I hope something changes soon with this business model, or at least their letterhead. Or, maybe you can just get this story out there so that the people who receive these strange demand letters will have some idea of what is going on.

I want to conclude with my usual advice, which is applicable in 99% of cases:

  • Don’t pay these clowns. I understand it is very scary in the beginning, but take your time to get educated: you’ll thank yourself for not succumbing to fears and saving your money, starving the troll in the process.
  • If you can afford a lawyer, hire a lawyer. Not any lawyer, but one with a good heart and lots of experience with troll cases. This is a much better use of your money than paying a ransom. Trolls want to convince you that fighting is more expensive than settling. Not always true. Do your research: many lawyers charge very reasonable fees. If you can’t afford a lawyer, sit tight and don’t let this scam derail your life; unless a virtually improbable event of serving you with summons happens, there is no reason to worry.
  • Don’t talk to trolls: it is dangerous. Don’t overestimate your ability to keep potentially self-incriminating information to yourself: crooks have perfected the art of provocation; you never know which words will be used against you. Refer the caller to your lawyer or give a minimal response. Don’t answer any questions.
  • There are valid reasons to settle: for example, if dragging your name through the dirt can jeopardize your employment or marriage. In this case, if you are resolved to pay no matter how you despise feeding the troll, hire a lawyer to assist you. Don’t settle on your own: you will be scammed.
Comments
  1. Anona says:

    Buffy is BUSTED…again!

  2. DieTrollDie says:

    Love the picture! ;) Great posting. More to come on this I bet. Hey John, I bet you never thought a bunch of “freetards” and lawyers would cause you so much annoyance. Don’t worry – were are not done yet. ;)

    DTD :)

  3. The Tod says:

    I was just about to rent a house in South Florida, but somebody beat me to it. Dang!

  4. The Tod says:

    Room at the Vdara hotel————-$149
    Wedding in Vegas———————$100
    Limo Suv in Vegas——————–$230
    Pictures of a drunkin’ John Steele – Priceless

  5. Raul says:

    Nice article to read before the start of a long holiday weekend. Too bad the affidavit did not contain a prohibition against engaging in reckless acts of terrorism against U.S. citizens.

    • Porno Doe says:

      I guess we could consider the Subpoenas Weapons of Mass Destruction!

      Ditto what DTD said, more to come Johnny! Stay tuned!

  6. Mr. Troll says:

    I beg to differ. The divorce practice was located in the Loop, which is not a low rent area.

    • Raul says:

      Mr. Troll should write up a post for this blog, how about an analysis of the pending Sunlust lawsuits? The post could examine the plaintiff, the trolls involved, the massive subterfuge on the federal judiciary to feebly avoid joinder problems and the, likely, sorry result. It could also touch upon how Troll Kotzker is wearing out his welcome mat in CO (with possible assistance)?

    • Hehe. I knew the bait would work ;) Time to let it go till the next catch.

      (For those who wonder, the initial wording of the first paragraph’s last sentence was “Before this move John Steele’s divorce law office was in a low income district in Chicago. “)

      • Sorry about that. Kind of brutal while you are grieving about an untimely loss. Shame on me.

        • Raul says:

          ?! Cannot be a court loss as he must be numb to that by this point.

        • I’m talking about his friend, Steve Jones. RIP.

        • Raul says:

          Thank you for reminding me of this tragic loss, I hear his last dying wish was to be buried next to Tawnee Stone (heavy handed, but…)Also forgot about the honeymoon pics posted by Steve at arcadiasecurity.com.

          I have some kittens to give away, I call them John and Steve and they are the biggest pussies. Both like to play dead when it suits their purpose but will still lurk under any bridge where they tower over all other vermin.

      • CTVic says:

        May it never get old, regardless of how predictable it becomes.

    • Mr. Trolled says:

      True. He hasn’t needed to cut too many costs. Selling misery is lucrative in this fucked up end-stage America. Divorce, extortion, general shitbagginess, selfish manipulative destructive hate pays. Unfortunately some of us put a lower sale price on our reputations and karma/soul/whatever. Hence folks like John.

      • Anonymous says:

        Looks like Lutz got cut out. I just got an auto dial from Prenda demanding money for a lawsuit that was dropped. To that I say “go fuck yourselves.” This is truly an automated extortion operation if they’re using a computer to call victims.

        • anonymous WITH prejudice says:

          Likewise . and for a case that was dismissed WITH predjudice to boot !

          i saved it and if any Ranallo-eque Esquire wants a doe to sue Steele with,

          SJD can hooks yah up !

        • Anonymous says:

          If I were you I’d contact the judge who presided over the case, the state bar association and the ARDC for the state. The judge will be very pissed that Prenda is contacting defendants dismissed with prejudice and you probably have enough for a whopper of a counterclaim against them. Mine was dismissed w/o prejudice so I gotta watch my ass.

        • Yes, please contact me: I’ll hook you up. This is a real deal.

        • Anonymous says:

          Yes, it seems RoboLutz is not very discerning about who gets called. It seems Prenda just loaded the whole database of phone numbers and names and let it loose. The best part is that the calls refer to letters that weren’t sent and to cases that have dismissed for 4+ months

        • Anonymous says:

          Lutz has been calling me on a weekly basis since January (sometimes he graces my machine twice in one week) informing me that they’ll be filing “individual lawsuits with defendants names in them” and that they’re going to “begin this process with (you) in the very near future.” What the hell is his definition of “near future?”

          Here’s what I see in the very near future: this extortion operation collapsing like a deck of cards and a US Attorney crawling up Steele’s ass, mass disbarments (Duffy, Steele, Perea, Gibbs, et. al.) and more countersuits than one can count. So my advice to Lutz, grab it while you can.

    • rockibalboa says:

      A troll practicing in the Loop-that’s like putting a silk shirt on a PIG!!

  7. [...] Prenda Law has started to e-mail their demand letters [...]

  8. Concerned Citizen says:

    I wonder will one get a licensed lawyer to represent him/her through these law offices. I bet most operations are still run by unlicensed scam scums. A lot of court dockets/activities are just submission of Motions, Orders, and Memorandums, They all can be submit electronically with an account of a lawyer, or via mail , or drop off with the court’s clerk. I remember in seeing a MEMORANDUM in Opposition to a motion to quash posted to a docket BY plaintiff lawyer about 5 minutes before deadline set by the judge to respond. All Does should fight them. I bet most these licensed lawyers represent these scam offices on paper only.

  9. speedygonzo says:

    I personally know Robert Balzebre… He is indeed a lawyer but has nothing to do with the Troll John Steele… Upon reading this report, I called Robert and he indicated that John Steele used to work for him some years ago… Steele “ended” his employment with Robert when without Robert’s consent, Steele used Robert’s letterhead and signature on letter he sent out… Needless to say, this was the last time Steele worked for Robert.

    • Thanks for this interesting tidbit. That does not contradict anything: Steele and his gangsters were caught lying on the record myriad of times. Nonetheless the fact is fact: Balzebre’s name was printed on the ransom letters; if would be nice if Robert Balzebre made an official statement regarding this alleged fraud, or even better, informed the Florida Bar, which closely watches Steele/Prenda and maybe is quite responsive to such information.

  10. Sword of Damocles says:

    Leave John Steele alone! I mean, totally alone. I mean, like on a desert island alone.

    I can barely imagine what thoughts, what savage impulses pass through his “mind.” Was he a victim of child abuse, perhaps by someone who subjected him to awful, endless porn and emotional pain? That would explain a lot.

      • Anonymous says:

        lol at the disclaimer on the bottom of that article “Disclaimer: The Steele Law Firm is not affiliated with Steele Hansmeier PLLC”

      • crushthetrolls says:

        So the victim becomes the bully? Douche move.

        • Steele is the most insecure lawyer that I ever saw. I talked to a dozen or so attorneys who had a “pleasure” to communicate with him directly, and all of them described John as an arrogant, insecure, unpleasant, rude and unprofessional asshole. All of them. So after this trolling saga is over I advise John to work as a psychological study object in a clinic: maybe this way he will repair his karma by contributing to the discovery of the anti-douchebag vaccine.

        • CTVic says:

          LMAO!!! Speaking of insecure bully assholes, I just now tried clicking your link above – and found a 404 Not Found error from the Steele Family Law site. The link was posted what … 2 weeks ago? So some time between then and now, our favorite resident insecure bully asshole stripped his article about insecure bully assholes!!

          Fortunately, for the rest of us, the Internet is an Archive – and sports many archivists. One of the more convenient is Google Web Cache:

          http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:-cJLQAfwjy8J:familylawlifeline.com/archives/197+http://familylawlifeline.com/archives/197&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

          Go ahead, John. Delete history. I dare ya. You can pull the google webcache pretty easily. There’s a dozen more.

          The internet remembers.

        • Thanks for noticing: I tweeted this news, and TorrentFreak noticed that tweet and spread Steele’s shame to really wide audience :)

        • CTVic says:

          And just in case anybody is interested in John Steele’s words about bullies, and doesn’t want to click out of SJD’s marvelous web site … and seeing as how the site administrator is not responsible for information posted to comments sections by their users – here is my gift to you:

          Even Attorneys Can be Bullies

          Posted on June 13, 2008 by John Steele

          I got the opportunity to experience a real, honest to god bully today in the form of an opposing counsel in a case I have. I suppose I can see how being an ass might get you somewhere if you are up against a pro se party who has no idea of what is happening, or maybe a timid transaction attorney that somehow found themselves in a divorce case. But another attorney whom you will have to deal with again and again?

          I am not sure why some Family Law attorneys purposely try to build up their mystique as a jerk. The attorney I am thinking of scares other experienced attorneys, who do not like dealing with the person. On the other hand, I enjoy it. I put a lot more effort into beating them, and take satisfaction out of stopping their antics. Why? Not really sure. I think it has something to do with going through middle school and being subjected to the evil whims of 8th graders. Now I get to make up for that abuse so long ago (and get paid to do it). Plus its in the best interests of your client to prevent the other side from steamrolling you.

          Standing up to a bully, whether some blowhard attorney, or an 8th grader feels good.Try it sometime.

        • Raul says:

          I love it when an old fart like me learns something new. Like Steele, Steve Jones has recently taken down his creepy wwwlightspeedphotography.com site but the waybackmachine still has it-how cool is that!

  11. Raul says:

    Upon the discovery of such a vaccine the legal profession would vanish.

  12. [...] law, one of the sleaziest law firms in the US history, a brainchild of a divorce-lawyer-turned-copyright-troll John Steele, [...]

  13. Boron says:

    Graham Syfert is my attorney for one of the suit that Prenda file against me. We were at court this morning and my case was dismiss. Judge order them to pay all fees include my attorney fees, I wonder if they will file an appeal.

  14. Boron says:

    Yes I was named, we decided to go to court and that was this morning. Steele was there but he wants no part of it, Graham also showed me a letter from Duffy to the court asking them to excuse his absent this morning and he also said that he had no knowledge of this case. Really confusing about who is running Prenda Law, the judge couldn’t figure out who is the principal of this law firm either lol

    • John says:

      Did Graham get the case dismissed on the merits or did prenda just screw it up and the judge dismissed out of annoyance? Have a link to the docket so we can check out the approach graham used?

      Good work btw. Warms me heart to see folks pushing back and winning.

    • Anonymous says:

      So can you disclose how much was litigation costs?

  15. Boron says:

    According the Graham, when they file the suit, they violated something, he was going to use that to get it dismiss but this morning, we didn’t even get to present our side. The judge basically chew out the plaintiff and trying to find out who is actually representing prenda and sunlust, no one seems to know or have a concrete answer for the judge, their so call “local counsel” wasn’t even there, he was in orlando calling by phone. He basically sign up to be a local counsel to get paid and had no idea what is going on

  16. Anonymous says:

    Wow, what a bunch of losers. No wonder John stopped bragging after shooting his wad on that batch of named cases a couple months ago (300 cases per month my ass). I’m guessing we won’t be seeing much more of that.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Congrats to Boron.

    And thanks to whomever recapped this nugget so quickly… Enjoy.
    “I can assure the Court that I had no knowledge or part in any of the parties that appeared on behalf of Sunlust Pictures LLC. I came into the case after it had been initiated and after learning more about the case I felt in was in my best interests to withdraw from all outstanding cases associated with Prenda Law. My Motion to Withdraw and Substitute Counsel were made in good faith and for the purposes of avoiding any further involvement with the case and Prenda Law.”

    http://ia701506.us.archive.org/11/items/gov.uscourts.flmd.274150/gov.uscourts.flmd.274150.27.0.pdf

  18. sharp as a marble says:

    one other interesting thing. mark lutz is now apparently the corporate rep for sunlust…..maybe that’s why he stopped calling peeps.

  19. [...] things happened since my article/informal interview with Graham Syfert “Who and where is Prenda Law? What happened to John Steele?” written in May, but you do not need to follow all the intrigues, just one fact is enough to [...]

  20. [...] an expose published earlier this year, the blog Fight Copyright Trolls details how Illinois attorney John [...]

  21. [...] an exposé published earlier this year, the blog Fight Copyright Trolls details how Illinois attorney John [...]

  22. [...] 13, 2011) “Steele Hansmeier” was dissolved. A couple of months prior to that John Steele created “Prenda Law,” using his acquaintance Paul Duffy as a nominal, fake CEO: only his name, [...]

  23. [...] never talked to Duffy, maybe once or twice was the impression I got. Even after the firm supposedly changed ownership and Duffy took over, whenever Wright asked who was giving instructions and making decisions, it was [...]

  24. [...] Syfert (a Jacksonville attorney, who does not need an introduction) posted an interesting investigative piece today. I found it extremely important and encourage [...]

  25. [...] i.e. it possible that they have been practicing Law in Florida without license. Given that Steele signed an affidavit agreeing not to do it, I expect Florida Bar to be annoyed (to put it mildly). Remember that even though the law [...]

  26. [...] of filings in order to solidly debunk new Steele/Lutz’s horseshit. Specifically, based on the genesis of Prenda’s letterheads, Syfert shows that the “Letter of engagement” could not possibly be [...]

  27. [...] moved to Florida during the summer of 2011, but judges in Florida weren’t any kinder to the Prenda approach. [...]

  28. […] holding company called Ingenuity 13, the judge found out a bit about Ingenuity’s counsel, a shadowy firm known as Prenda Law. When Wright’s preliminary inquiries about Prenda revealed what he […]

  29. Kurt says:

    Hey, check it out. I found a video of pictures from John Steele’s wedding! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZH0fCXAnHo

    His wife looks kind of like a porn star! http://m.c.lnkd.licdn.com/mpr/mpr/shrink_200_200/p/2/000/192/1de/12d14b8.jpg

  30. torrent says:

    I enjoy, lead to I discovered just what I was looking
    for. You have ended my 4 day lengthy hunt!
    God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye

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