The rather long list of “People Most Hated By The Internet” — that guy who sued the Oatmeal, RIAA, Hunter Moore, Julia Allison, Violentacrez… — would be incomplete were it not to include John Steele. Steele is a lawyer who has partnered with the pornography industry to go after “pirates” who download their XXX films without paying for them. He has filed over 350 of these suits, and says he is currently suing approximately 20,000 people.
As a shakedown enterprise, Prenda is a complex organization and has many “clients” (I use quotes to emphasize the fact that, unlike a normal legal practice, it were not clients who shopped for legal representation and found Prenda Law, but the other way around: John Steele and others actively “hunted” for porn copyright holders in order to lure them into a lucrative semi-legal and obviously immoral schemes of monetizing copyright infringement of cheap pornography “works”).
While, just like other troll enterprises, Prenda uses real copyright holders like CP Productions, Sunlust Pictures etc., its masterminds, Paul Hansmeier, and Brett Gibbs were not as lucky as Keith Lipscomb, who has been able to milk Brigham Field and Colette Leah on a massive scale, giving them only a 10% cut of the
settlement ransom money and keeping the rest. Prenda’s “real” clients wanted their “fair” (as if anything in in this “business” is fair) share, and infinitely greedy Prenda naturally always looked for ways to avoid sharing its loot.
First it was MCGIP, a mini-Righthaven, as Nicholas Ranallo, an attorney who defends victims of bittorent shakedown cases, nicely put it. Shortly after Nick’s article was published in TorrentFreak, MCGIP quietly ceased to exist. Although the idea of procuring copyrights for a sole purpose to mass-sue alleged bittorent file-sharers is obviously lucrative, doing it on the US sole right after the Righthaven fiasco was not wise.
So, our con artists went offshore. Two companies emerged out of the crooked minds of Paul Hansmeier and John Steele: Inguenity 13 and AF Holdings, both registered on St. Kitts and Nevis, a secrecy haven, where even attempting to uncover identities of business owners is a criminal offense.
Although it was obvious who the real owner of these companies was, it was really hard to proof due to the reasons mentioned above. Yet every criminal makes a fatal mistake in his career. And that mistake was involving the guy named Alan Cooper, a caretaker of John Steele’s inherited property in Minnesota. Steele asked him for some chores here and there, to answer the phone, etc., but little by little the crooks started using his name in official papers — as a manager for both offshore companies — and according to the letter embedded below, since Alan did not give them a permission to do so (and basically was not even aware of their actions), essentially committed an identity theft, lying under oath on multiple occasions, and forging Alan’s electronic signature (see the exhibits).
When Alan became aware of it, he lawyered up and filed the following letter in at least four of the fraudulent AF Holdings v. Doe cases (12-cv-02687, 12-cv-02688, 12-cv-02689, and 12-cv-01449). Read it. If it is not the beginning of Prenda’s end and does not prompt a massive federal investigation, I don’t know what to say…
“Alan Cooper” is not a rare name, and there is a small chance that another Alan Cooper exists and “serves” as a CEO of those two offshore companies, but given the circumstances, is anyone here willing to bet on it?
It took only five days for a troll Michael Dugas to react to Alan Cooper’s letter with a two-paragraph statement. Of course, the fraudster denied everything outright (what would you expect, “yes, we’ve been naughty, Your Honor”?):
I write to respond to the November 29, 2012 letter filed with the Court by Attorney Paul Godfread. In his letter, Attorney Godfread accuses AF Holdings LLC of being a sham corporation and fraudulently holding his client out as its CEO. Both of these accusations are categorically false.
Attorney Paul Godfread filed an identical letter in a similar case currently pending before the Honorable Judge Joan N. Erickson. In a text entry, the Court indicated it reviewed the letter and “will take no action on [Attorney Godfread’s] request.” Plaintiff respectfully requests that the Court reach similar decision.
This phrase suggests how bad Mr. Dugas is as an attorney (professionalism is not a quality of the highest priority for running an extortion scam). He should know that Judge Erickson’s statement simply translates to “Godfread has to make a Rule 24 motion to intervene before the court can take an action one way or the other.” Nothing more, nothing less.
Dugas’s letter ends with unsubstantiated threats towards Mr. Cooper’s attorney Paul Goldfread:
By way of separate action, Plaintiff will address Attorney Godfread’s egregious behavior.
…which is funny because Mr. Goldfread is protected by the litigation privilege… but we all know that making unsubstantiated threats is the very core of Prenda’s business, so no surprises here.
If this is all that the crooks could come up with in their defense in five days, all I hear is a fan’s circular frequency steadily increase in premonition of something hitting the blades very soon.
One of four cases where Alan Cooper’s “Letter to District Judge” was filed (12-cv-02688), was dismissed with prejudice. Usually such dismissal means settlement, but I’m skeptical in this case. First, it is strange to settle while there is a substantial probability that AF Holdings is a fake company, and the instant case is the instant fraud. Second, while allowing the discovery, Judge Graham established at least one safeguard, which I’m sure Prenda crooks did not cheerfully welcome:
Within one day of extending any offer to settle to John Doe or having any other contact with John Doe, Plaintiff shall disclose the offer or contact to the Court by filing under seal a copy of (1) any written communication or (2) a transcript of any oral communication. Plaintiff shall also send a courtesy copy of each sealed document to the Court’s chambers.
- ArsTechnica: Man charges porn trolling firm Prenda Law with identity theft (Says firm listed him as the CEO of a shell corporation without permission.) by Timothy Lee.
- 12/03/2012: Attorney Morgan Pietz attacks Prenda’s offshore businesses.
- 12/11/2012: Facing uncomfortable questions, Brett Gibbs throws a tantrum.
- 12/17/2012: Another day, another tantrum, but this time Brett Gibbs directs judges to this site.
- 12/28/2012: Big news: Judge Wright has granted a discovery aimed at solving the Alan Cooper mystery (and, potentially, uncovering a fraud of epic proportions).
- 12/31/2012: The unbearable shrill of desperation. Brett Gibbs moves to disqualify Judge Otis Wright.
- 1/9/2013: Attorney for a fake plaintiff questions the existence of a defendant he is suing.