Archive for January, 2013

Emboldened by the selective permissiveness of the US legal system, John Steele’s staggering fraudulent activities continue unabated. The latest middle finger to the justice is being shown by Prenda as we speak. Steele Hansmeier / Prenda Law / Anti-Piracy Law group are currently working on a complete vertical integration of all the components necessary to continue and widen its racketeering campaign (from porn production to made-up plaintiffs to nationwide network of lawyers and debt collectors).

Continued from Part I: A missing link.

Part II: A new bogus company

All the made-up companies have one big disadvantage: earlier or later people would start questioning their existence, and (god forbid!) judges would become suspicious. From time to time new plaintiff names must be injected, ones that are a little bit more credible, at least on the surface.

So a new imaginary company was born: LiveWire Holdings:

Website

At the first glance, LiveWire’s website looks genuine. Nevertheless, in one minute or so surfer’s eyebrows start moving up slowly. This site is an amateur and a lame attempt to minimally change a popular template (while the first lawsuit is already in full speed in a corrupt St. Clair county, IL court: keep reading).

So, don’t be deceived:

  • The textual nonsense is a common corporate lorem ipsum (from the template, although some text was replaced).
  • It is not Mark Lutz ‘s photo, it is a stock photo (from the template): it would be funny if it turned out that the picture was not properly licensed.
  • What is purported Mark Lutz managing? Limewire? I thought these guys are an anti-piracy outfit (sorry, couldn’t resist).
  • Of course, “Partners” do not exist (from the template).

 

“Company”

This “company” even has its “own” lawyer (as she has indicated in her LinkedIn profile), Sirh-Ryun Stella Wi Dugas, Michael Dugas’s wife, a fresh Minnesota Bar member with already damaged reputation and career.

A few people called the number listed on this site and either they heard a relatively new Prenda’s shakedown officer paralegal Kevin O’Kelly, or they received a callback from Prenda’s number 800-380-0840, the arrangement of digits hated by so many.

Company’s address is Livewire Holdings, LLC | 2100 M St. NW | Suite 170-417 | Washington DC 200037, and a UPS store can be easily located there, so the address is fabricated. The same address is printed on ransom letters on a new… Guava letterhead (which is, by the way, was sent after it became apparent that the lawsuit mentioned in this letter is a sham). Only on Friday, John Steele poured hogwash on a Minnesota judge that Guava’s principle business is “primarily based and in Nevada, but originated on St. Kitts, with computers in Illinois and Nevada.” It is in Washington now. Right. The truth is that all these artificial companies are most likely located only in the criminal heads of Prenda’s principals, and this fact is becoming so obvious that it is almost boring.

“Lawsuit”

This lawsuit (LW Systems v. Christopher Hubbard) was filed in the St. Clair county court on January 9 and alleges hacking in very vague terms (as usual). No copyright is mentioned whatsoever. There are many reasons for this blatant lie: one of them is the ability of these lawsuits to stay in less transparent and more fraud-permitting county courts. Another is suggested by a reader (make sure to read the replies).

Note that the plaintiff’s name does not match the company name: LW Systems, not LW Holdings. If we were not talking about one of the worst crooks with legal diplomas, questioning this discrepancy would make sense. Otherwise, is it a surprise? Yet another splash of dirt to muddy already murky water. AF Holdings–AF Films, and so on…

Have a look at an unusual Duffy’s signature in the complaint: he is not a stranger to having multiple signatures. Is it surprising for a career crook?

Given our long time suspicions and the recent events in Minnesota, it is safe to assume that the defendant is a patsy, a poor soul who decided to go against both the law and his Karma — by colluding with the crooks — simply to save his ass. In addition, it is safe to assume that the IP addresses involved in this suit make a complex cocktail: leftovers from previous lawsuits, newly acquired addresses, Lighspeed’s shameful random list… you name it.

Already mentioned Prenda’s nominal chief Paul Duffy and his scumbag friend, Kevin Hoerner (an arrogant liar who believes in his immunity) represent “Plaintiff.”

 

Due to the opaqueness of the St. Clair county court, it is extremely difficult to get the pulse of the lawsuit. St. Clair county clerk’s website shows that nothing happened since the filing, yet there are voices telling that people have already started receiving letters from their ISPs. One of the readers (ignorantly) called the predators (big “thanks” to Neustar) to be told that the ransom amount is $4,000.

I’ll post new documents on the page dedicated to Guava et al. as they are shared with me, and definitely we will keep an eye on this frivolous lawsuit: Prenda’s frauds are numerous, but we have hundred times more eyes.

Oh, I almost forgot to ask an alleged “co-conspirator” from this case: do you really think about settling with these thieves? Think again.

Update (important)

I was just tipped that the defense lawyer on the Hubbard case is… Adam Urbanczyk! Un-F-believable! He already receives calls and advises people to settle. Moreover, people who call plaintiff (a court clerk gives them the number) are directed to call Adam Urbanczyk!

Do not call this shameless man under any circumstances!

 

Relevant pages
  • All the documents from the state “hacking,” allegedly collusive cases are located on this page. A discussion is going on there as well.
Emboldened by the selective permissiveness of the US legal system, Prenda’s staggering fraudulent activities continue unabated. The latest middle finger to the justice is being shown by Prenda as we speak. Steele Hansmeier / Prenda Law / Anti-Piracy Law group are currently working on a complete vertical integration of all the components necessary to continue and widen its racketeering campaign.

Part I. A missing link

Any organized crime operation tends to move towards vertical integration. A Mafiozo business is usually very effective, in part because it exercises control over all the operating stages. There are four main players/areas in any given porn copyright trolling operation:

  • Porn producer
  • Bittorent swarm monitor
  • Copyright holder / assignee (Plaintiff)
  • Lawyer’s network

 

If different people control these areas, all of them want their cut. Keith Lipscomb was lucky to find a somewhat talented, but not-so-smart porn producer, Brigham Field, who is happy to receive his 10% cut. Usually producers want more.

So far, John Steele’s criminal organization has been somewhat successfully integrating three areas out of four:

Bittorent monitoring

In-house “expert” Peter Hansmeier monitors bittorent swarms from the very beginning of Steele/Hansmeier involvement in the lucrative abuse of the court system. His software is still super-secret, and his company is not registered anywhere. Peter himself is not a certified forensic expert. His brother Paul, not John Steele, is the real Prenda’s mastermind according to some opinions.

Steele also experimented with Steve “Lightpeed” Jones’s own, extremely amateur “company” Arcadia Security (comprised of only Steve Jones himself), when he first tested CFAA waters. To the best of my knowledge, two former “friends” do not work together anymore (and even had some bad squabbles), although a couple of Lightspeed’s lawsuits, including the infamous Lightspeed Media Corporation v. Smith et al. (ILSD 12-cv-00889), are still lingering.

Plaintiffs

Plaintiffs AF Holdings, Ingenuity 13, LW Systems, Guava, Arte de Oaxaca, and maybe Quad International ¹ are shell or entirely bogus entities, assignees of copyrights to pornographic material. These “companies” do not use copyrights as intended, i.e. there are no sales, only lawsuits. Even more, it is reportedly impossible to find the titles used in those lawsuits in any online or brick-and-mortar store.

Prenda still works with real copyright holders, but obviously has been moving away from using them over recent couple of months: we witness mass dismissals of the cases assigned to plaintiffs other than the ones listed above. Only two categories of “real plaintiff” cases are still active: 1) cases that cannot be dismissed due to the defendants’ answers to complaints, and 2) cases in which default judgment was entered.

In addition to the fact that “real” plaintiffs demand their cut, they are unreliable and prone to unexpected problems.

The first experiment with a bogus plaintiff was attempted in 2010/2011 with creation of non-producing, Righthaven-like entity MCGIP. After TorrentFreak’s investigative reporting by Nicholas Ranallo was published, this entity was quickly dismantled. Crooks learned their lessons, and the next reincarnations of “mini-Righthavens” were obscured by ostensibly outsourcing to St. Kitts and Nevis. Even that may be not the case, and probably none of these corporations has been registered at all. It is only logical not to spend money on registration of a corporation that cannot be pierced anyway due to strict secrecy laws of this Caribbean state. Simply using someone else’s name as a CEO — Anthony Saltmarsh or Alan Cooper — will do.

Lawyer network

No explanation necessary. This category includes paralegals in charge of shaking down identified victims. Local counsels do not cost an arm and a leg to Prenda: usually underemployed, starving attorneys are hired only to submit pleadings written in the “troll command and control.” In a recent rare case when a local goon was trusted to write his own motion, he shamelessly lifted the entire pleading written by someone else.

Production

Ultimate bottomless greed did not let criminal masterminds sleep. Porn producers / initial copyright holders still require their cut and they are a hassle to deal with. Therefore, not surprisingly, John Steele decided to forge the missing link and hired a director and performers to film and subsequently license his own pornography. Of course I oversimplify, and greed is definitely not the only motivation: see a brilliant comment embedded at the bottom of this post.

As an anonymous commenter precisely described the situation after John’s plans became obvious,

It shows that the crook is now clearly involved at the very root of the scam. Directly involved in the MAKING of the smut that is soon to be licensed to AF Holdings or Ingenuity 13 or (insert new sham offshore LLC name here). Soon this newly produced smut will have a registered copyright, and be immediately seeded into honeypot torrents, and immediately monitored by the seeder (6881 Forensics LLC, or whatever they will call themselves since they cannot be found to be officially a licensed business either) for “OMG! Copyright Infringement!”

The smut that Steele is producing does not have to be of a particularly high quality: remember, it will not be sold, it will not be streamed, but it will be used only for extortion purposes. Bittorent curious porn hunters will download anything based solely on the filename and/or description, simply to check it out. Throw a relatively famous (in their universe) names to the mix, and you get your swarm to milk. It does not matter that only about 70% of harvested IP addresses more or less point to people who knowingly shared the pornography in question, the other 30% will be harassed and pushed to settle anyway.

John’s hubris was the main reason why he could not keep his mission under wraps. @bittorrentbull on Twitter thought that it is impossible that others can provably link John Steele to @bittorrentbull screen name, and he tweeted a myriad of self-incriminating things: from documenting vexatious and vindictive reasons behind federal Guava lawsuits to damaging his position in the ongoing Alan Cooper v. John Steele et al. He was probably drunk when he exchanged his Twitter screen name with a porn performer/director Marcus London and a pornstar Gaia. Unknowingly, they setup him later by tweeting about the filming, and even confirmed @bittorentbull’s identity (at the very bottom of the dialog):

(Click on the image to enlarge)

 

Featured comment

Anonymous on January 31, 2013 at 3:17 am:

Although vertical integration does have its benefits, especially with Steele crossing the line and doing completely illegal stuff like stealing Alan Cooper’s identity, I think another important consideration is that this is a sign of just how marginalized John has become.

All things being equal, with the reported 90% cut of settlement dollars for John, there would not be a huge monetary incentive to go through all of this trouble, so there are likely non-monetary reasons he has given up on having clients. A big one is publicity, we know from their own words in interviews that porn producers don’t like their neighbors to know what they do for a living. Another is fear of liability, I’m sure Paul Pilcher’s example of having to pay off two countersuits didn’t exactly instill confidence in other potential clients. Third is probably just that the money dried up. I thought it was a big-time tell when Boner from Chica’s Place mentioned on DTD’s site that he has not used Prenda in a while; no explanation, but the guy is obviously not sympathetic to troll-haters so he had reasons other than ethics to stop using John’s services and it was almost certainly because of money. We also have the insider’s report from Slashdot that confirmed Steele is basically a joke to his target market.

So at this point, with Prenda/APLG not even filing lawsuits anymore, it’s pretty clear this is also just a last desperate attempt to have something (anything) to work with. The sad thing is if LiveWire can come up with halfway decent content maybe John will figure out he can actually just make something people want and monetize it and actually do some honest work for a change.

If we can keep close enough tabs on their shenanigans it’s actually very possible to seriously undermine his scam. Just keep an eye out for their content going up on torrent sites and carpetbomb the comments with warnings and links to this site. It might even be smart to ask the tracker operators to take down John’s torrents. Actually, in retrospect, that would have been a great community project all along, getting the word out by spreading awareness at the source of distribution for torrent files that trolls are suing over. Obviously that’s not going to prevent false-positives and people who are getting fingered because someone leeches their Wi-Fi, but every little bit helps.

Continue to Part II: A new bogus company.

 


¹ On the surface, Quad International looks differently than the other “family members”: it even has its own Wikipedia page. Admittedly, we did not look closely enough, although there are some troubling reports (too early to reflect). Nonetheless, even a mere fact that Quad was not touched by the recent mass dismissals and currently enjoys the company of clearly artificial entities, warrants a serious suspicion. We will get there: it is just a matter of time.

A copyright troll attorney Brett Gibbs continues avoiding questions about the alleged identity theft — after his attempt to remove Judge Wright from the case has failed.

Today DieTrollDie posted an update about yesterday’s dismissal: Brett Gibbs dismissed Ingenuity 13 v. John Doe (CACD 12-cv-08333) pending before Judge Wright. I tweeted about it chuckling at the fact that a miserable attorney couldn’t avoid whining even in a dismissal notice… and forgot about it — until I was pointed to the fact that this is the same case where Judge Wright granted Morgan Pietz’s discovery that supposed to shed some light on the mysterious AF Holdings / Ingenuity 13 CEO Alan Cooper.

Given the fact that Judge Wright has dismissed all but two AF Holdings and Ingenuity 13 cases pending before him, for example, 12-cv-05709, 12-cv-06659, 12-cv-06636, 12-cv-06664 (I will update this post later and list all the cases), and has not dismissed this particular case, yesterday’s dismissal by Gibbs is a douchebaggery at its zenith: it is a brazen attempt to avoid answering the damning questions right after the failure of another attempt to do it by removing Judge Wright from the case.

 

Brett Gibbs has just incriminated himself beyond a reasonable doubt.

I hope that Judge Wright will not leave this insult to his intelligence unpunished. I do not expect that he will allow this case to be closed. [Update: I’m not correct — see a lawyer’s opinion at the bottom.]

 

 

Update

It’s even more interesting: the very same day Gibbs attempted to dismiss the case, Judge Wright issues an order that directs parties to prepare a joint conference statement and discusses conference dates, all related to Alan Cooper interrogatories. This indicates the seriousness of judge’s resolution to dig to the bottom of this issue, and Gibbs’s dismissal looks even pettier in light of this order:

 

I asked an attorney a question if Judge Wright has a power to stop the dismissal. Here is his reply:

No, but the Judge retains authority/jurisdiction as to all remaining collateral issues such as sanctions as well as potential inappropriate conduct of counsel/parties. I believe that since the discovery order was issued after the dismissal, it is likely that the Court sees the dismissal as potentially motivated to hide inappropriate conduct or even perjury etc… Technically the judge could still allow discovery on the Alan Cooper issue or even order Gibbs or Steele or even “Alan Cooper” to appear and testify. If they refuse, the court can invoke its plenary contempt power. That’s when the ____ hits the fan.

It is well established that “federal court[s] may consider collateral issues after an action is no longer pending, including an award of attorney’s fees.” Lorillard Tobacco Co. v. Engida, 611 F.3d 1209, 1218 (10th Cir. Colo. 2010) (citing Cooter & Gell v. Hartmarx Corp., 496 U.S. 384, 395, (1990) (holding that “nothing in the language of Rule 41(a)(1)(i), Rule 11, or other statute or Federal Rule terminates a district court’s authority to impose sanctions after such a dismissal”).

While Dan Booth and Jason Sweet are currently involved in multiple battles with Prenda’s local goon and swindler Daniel Ruggiero in their home state of Massachusetts, sometimes the defenders move their troops to other states.

Friday’s Connecticut campaign delivered an (un)expected strike in AF Holdings LLC v. Elliot Olivias (MAD 12-cv-01401). The heroes and villains are the same, plus a local CT attorney Frances Codd Slusarz on our side.

As usually, it is easy to feature Booth Sweet’s pleadings: neither translation nor annotation necessary. Just skip the legal mumbo-jumbo “defendant denies the allegation in paragraph…,” have a quick look at 23 (!) affirmative defenses on pages 5-9, and proceed to slowly enjoying the counterclaims on page 10. There are four of them:

  1. Declaratory judgment on non-infringement
  2. Abuse of process
  3. Copyright misuse
  4. Defamation

 

It is worth noting that prior to this Answer no one (to the best of my knowledge) attacked one particular link in the chain of fraud — the fact that in many AF Holdings lawsuits, including this one, the copyright assignee is not “AF Holdings” but a mysterious non-party “AF Films,” hence AF Holdings has no standing to sue:

Plaintiff provides contrary information to its standing in the Complaint. Plaintiff includes with the Complaint the “Certificate of Registration” from the United States Copyright Office for “Sexual Obsession,” which lists that the author and copyright claimant as Heartbreaker Films in California. ECF No. 1-2. However, the assignee signing the agreement is AF Films, LLC, which is not a party to this case.

In fact, the concept of “standing” is not applicable to ghosts, so I propose to replace standing by levitation: “AF Holidngs has no levitation to sue.” I urge Jason to incorporate my proposal in the next pleading v. AF Holdings, Ingenuity 13, Guava, LW Systems and other corporations run by ghosts.

I think that John Steele has finally found a way to vindicate me: the amount of scams he conceives is so high, the brazenness is so staggering that I may get seriously ill from writing that much about this unpleasant man and his co-gangsters. No single day passes without a new record low that this gang registers on their way down.

Abusing a loophole in an exotic Pennsylvania law

It came to my attention that on 12/24/2013 Prenda tested a new turf (not exactly new — it was tried by others before, somewhat unsuccessfully: read along). Prenda filed a motion for leave to take pre-complaint discovery in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia on behalf of a non-existent plaintiff Guava LLC, trying to get identities of 40 Internet subscribers with a sole goal to harass and blackmail them into settling or doing some dirty job.

In short, this exotic law (“Writ of summons”) allows subpoenaing ISPs before filing a complaint (without any commitment to file it later). In other words, this law is a cousin of Florida’s Pure Bill Of Discovery, heavily exploited by both John Steele’s and Keith Lipscomb’s Mafias.

Readers of this blog remember that Liberty Media tried to exploit the very same loophole in the Pennsylvania civil law half a year ago. At that time, Marc Randazza was an in-house counsel for Liberty Media Holdings, and I believe that the idea of this fishing blitzkrieg was his. For a couple of reasons, it was a failure. Particularly, Mark Randazza’s local counsel on that case, Jordan Rushie, realized that this way to “protect copyright” is inherently wrong, essentially resigned (dismissed the case) and since then has been defending many Does — victims of predatory shakedown lawsuits.

It is hardly a surprise to those who follow Prenda and other trolls: cockroaches tend to explore cracks in the floor (in this case, in the floor of the US judicial system).

An incredible mix of irony, shame and loathe

Here is the Memo in support of the motion (the other documents are linked at the bottom of this post)

 

Not that the memo embedded above is bad, it is actually good, but it is definitely not written by Steele. Then by whom? Let us look at the memo in the original Liberty Media filing:

 

Got it?

The entire text was shamelessly lifted from Rushie’s memorandum! Word to word.

I asked Jordan, and the answer was predictable: his firm has nothing to do with it. The fruit of his work (albeit adversary at that time, but still a decent work) was stolen either by Steele or his PA local counsel Isaac Slepner. (I apply trolls’ misleading terminology, which they hypocritically use when whining about pirates “stealing their clients’ precious pornography.”)


Isaac F. Slepner

As for the local attorney Isaac F. Slepner… Many local counsels deceived by Prenda turned out to be ethical attorneys (George Banas, Jonathan Torres, Matthew Wasinger, Trina Morrison…) and would not even think about associating their names with Prenda scumbags if they knew how much their cores are rotten. Seeing that, I would not rush and blame an underemployed attorney: I hope he will smell the stink of decay that the criminal organization Prenda exudes and will resign from this case — the sooner the better. If he was the one who pilfered Rushie’s text, he deserves some booing, but it is a much lesser crime than to make any deal with Prenda.

Last, but not least: abusing the law is Pennsylvania is one of the stupidest things John Steele’s hubris can conceive: there are certain superior attorneys there who will have a field day with John’s ill attempt to defraud justice, and they will take the matter as close to personal as their genuine professionalism allows.

Documents
Media coverage
Update

3/19/2013

On 3/11/2013 Verizon picked up the battle and filed a very comprehensive Motion to quash. It has an impressive set of attachments, including Pietz’s crash course in history of Prenda’s shenanigans.

The hearing in Guava v. Spencer Merkel in the Hennepin County Court (Minneapolis) on 1/25/2013 was eventful. The main bombshell that went off that day was a damning affidavit of the “defendant” Spencer Merkel, who admitted that he had been blackmailed by Prenda into participation in a fraud upon the court. Namely, Mr. Merkel agreed to be a nominal, fake defendant in this mockery of litigation, and in exchange, Prenda crooks promised to dismiss the claims against him, those that stemmed from his admission of sharing a video using a private Bittorent network.

It was a bad day for Steele, who appeared in the courtroom along with his partner in crime Paul Hansmeier and a nominal plaintiff’s counsel Michael Dugas. As usually, Steele did most of the talking, while Hansmeier participated a bit, trying to bullshit the judge on the question of jurisdiction, and Michael Dugas did not say a word: a striking resemblance to a recent court appearance in Chicago, where articulately challenged Paul Duffy did not talk beyond identifying himself as a plaintiff attorney.

Steele tried to deceive the judge, showing her a demand letter that does not ask for money. He presented it as a big deal, but we all know what his words are worth: just last week I published such a demandless demand letter, but next to it I also published a mandatory follow-up, which is not much different from the familiar Prenda’s Halloween scares, and asks for $4,000.

Steele revealed to the judge that Guava is primarily based in Las Vegas, NV (hi, Jayme!), but originated in St. Kitts and Nevis. He also said that the computer systems were in Illinois and Las Vegas, which is another hogwash that can be easily debunked: if this gang had a single computer in Illinois, Guava complaints would not fail to state it — instead, a frivolously vague phrase “computer systems accessible in Illinois” was used. In reality, “Guava” exists only on paper, and as such does not have any hardware at all.

When the hearing transcript is available, I will make sure to publish it.

I said it was a bad day for Steele, but this narcissist megalomaniac probably thought it went brilliantly: he ecstatically sang the same old song how catching the correct user of an IP address is similar to traffic cameras capturing license plates… Ironically, he enjoyed his diarrhea of words in Minnesota, where the Supreme Court has already ruled that traffic cameras that issue tickets only on the basis of the license plate are unconstitutional because you don’t know who the driver was.

Yes, he probably was high from his speech, yet the abovementioned Merkel’s affidavit was not served before the hearing, so Steele did not know about it. Also, he probably did not realize the extent of another blow as he did not have time to read the documents featured below: before John entered the courtroom, either in the elevator or upon exiting the elevator, Steele was served with a lawsuit filed on behalf of Alan Cooper (represented by his attorney Paul Godfread).

The complaint v. John Steele, Prenda Law, AF Holdings, and Ingenuity 13 alleges invasion of privacy, deceptive practices, and civil conspiracy. Also, it asserts that all the defendant “corporations” are, in fact, inadequate, improperly maintained shells created solely as abusive lawsuit mills. Plaintiff asks for monetary award and injunction that he was never an officer of the said “corporations.”

 

Other documents were served along with the complaint. I suggest reading them as they contain interesting, previously unknown bits (for example, the fact that Steele threatened Alan Cooper with a vexatious lawsuit weeks after he went forward with identity theft allegations).

 

Minnesota state court rules are a bit different from federal ones. The lawsuit commences upon service, and one can serve initial discovery requests at the same time. Nothing needs to be filed with the court immediately, and sometimes cases go through pleadings, discovery, and settlement without ever being filed. Steele, as well as other defendants, have 20 days to answer to the complaint. They have 45 days to respond to the discovery requests.

The set of interrogatories is largely different from those hanging over the Brett Gibbs’s head, perfectly complementing them. It is like opening the second front against an army of aggressors.

 

 

Media Coverage
Update

Below is the transcript of the hearing:

It was obvious that a rash of CFAA cases filed in state courts by Prenda con artists — Guava v. Skylar Case (Cook county, IL), Guava v. Spencer Merkel (Hennepin county, MN), and Arte de Oaxaca v. Stacey Mullen (Cook county, IL) — were sham lawsuits that employed the same scheme:

  • Find a poor guy or girl who was “caught” either breaking copyright law by sharing copyrighted material (pornography) using Bittorent protocol, or accessing a pornography paysite using stolen credentials. And by “caught” I don’t mean that his or her IP address was simply recorded by a purported forensic expert, such as Peter Hansmeier and his unregistered, illegitimate company “6881 Forensics,” or Steve “Lightspeed” Jones’ “Arcadia Security” with its few scripts that parse server logs and produce mind-bogging amount of false positives (link NSFW). I mean solid evidence, namely admission of the wrongdoing.
  • Threaten him/her with insanely huge fines and expensive lawsuit that he or she has no means to afford.
  • Offer a deal: this poor chap plays a defendant in a state court lawsuit filed on behalf of a fake company and agrees to sign his consent to subpoena multiple ISPs to unmask thousands of Internet users, whose IP addresses may or may not have been recorded by the fake “experts” mentioned above. As a payback, this “defendant “will not pay anything and will be quietly dismissed later. Judges in underfunded county courts are happy when defendant and plaintiff agree on something, and endorse such agreements, sometimes without reading them.
  • Get the personal information of those thousands, many (probably the majority) of whom are innocent of any wrongdoing, and shake them down using the widely known protocols of harassment, baseless threats and lies.

 

While these “agreed orders” raised many eyebrows (including those of Judge Tailor), up to this point we did not have a smoking gun, and judges don’t like conspiracy theories, no matter how plausible they are.

Things have changed today in a dramatic manner: Spencer Merkel, a “defendant” in the Minnesota case, filed a damning affidavit through his attorney, exposing the brazen fraud:

 

This affidavit has surfaced during today’s hearing on motions to quash. John Steele appeared in person, probably hoping to save the case by dismissing those who filed motions, as he did in Chicago. No luck. Judge Tanya Bransford initially dismissed the complaint on the wrong jurisdiction grounds, but ultimately took the issue under advisement with the caveat that she will probably dismiss the complaint (and I hope will refer the fraudsters to the Bar and AG).

The house of cards built by the crooks (Paul and Peter Hansmeier, John Steele, Paul Duffy, Brett Gibbs, Michael Dumas) suddenly collapsed, implicating both the known scam artists and “defense” attorneys — Adam Urbanzcyk, Bernard Fuhs and Jennifer Dukarski.

The two latter attorneys represent another possibly fake defendant in a federal case AF Holdings v. Ciccone (MIED 12-cv-14442). Apparently, Prenda, not being slapped on the wrist and emboldened by a relative success, decided to pull the same trick on the federal level. I did not report on this, but both DieTrollDie and Rob Cashman did. This case is a hot spot now — after two excellent motions were filed by attorneys John Hermann and Eric Grimm (documents 22 and 33).

Note that I do not imply that two Michigan defense attorneys colluded with Prenda. I don’t have enough information to make such serious allegations. As for Adam Urbanczyk, the benefit of doubt we gave him has depleted long time ago.

Individual vindictive and vexatious Guava cases filed across the nation won’t survive the Minneapolis blast either: Booth Sweet has already filed a request for judicial notice of Merlkel’s affidavit in the Guava v. John Doe case (MAD 12-cv-11880), which I covered recently.

Now the ball is in the hands of Attorney General and FBI. We’ll see if they finally realize the depth of Prenda’s criminal activities and its impact on the society.

Funny fact: sometime next week I planned a post — an appeal to all the three defendants in Prenda’s CFAA cases to go forward and report the fraud upon the court to the authorities (assuming that those three poor souls did not realize that they are on the hook for criminal charges). Prenda’s bottomless greed (mixed with sloppiness) ended up working in place of my planned appeal. It is beyond comprehension why the crooks started threatening a cooperating patsy. Well, I don’t have to write this appeal anymore, which frees up my time to report on a couple of similarly big news (and I have a t least two in the queue).

There is more than one event happened today in the same building, albeit not in a courtroom but in an elevator. But it is a different story. Stay intrigued.

Update

I have just obtained a document that sheds some light on one of the reasons behind Spencer Merkel’s decision to go forward. The fraud was first reported to the court on Tuesday 1/22/2013, when a couple of ISPs filed a joint support document embedded below. It does not add much to what is said above, except maybe a suggestion that Mr. Merkel’s attorney Trina Morrison was not an active participant in the scheme, but was rather fooled by Prenda and initially was not even aware of the fraudulent “deal.”

 

Media coverage

Mark Lutz

Recently I heard too many reports that Steele Hansmeier / Prenda Law / Anti-Piracy Law Group has intensified its harassing calls. And the crook on the other end of the phone line is no one else but previously “retired” (or rather fired — after he foolishly disobeyed his master’s order to move to Las Vegas) Mark Lutz.

These calls are beyond fraud.

  • The caller does not identify himself, which is a serious violation of the FDCPA (yes, some lawyers think that Prenda’s phone campaign can be categorized as a debt collection — albeit there is no debt). I’m sure it is afoul of other regulations.
  • Mark Lutz claims that he calls “from Prenda Law,” a nearly defunct law firm that is not in good standing with the state of Illinois: the beast is changing its skin these days, becoming “Anti-Piracy Law Group¹.”
  • Mark Lutz refers to dismissed lawsuits as if they are still alive, mentioning such “plaintiffs” as Hard Drive Productions, Boy Racer, etc. Especially egregious lie is Hard Drive Productions involvement. Its owner Paul Pilcher is probably soiling his pants every morning, as memories start to kick in after the wet slumbers recede. Memories of the countersuits, citizen activity informing his neighbors and schools about the illegal porn production in his home, and, on top of it, the current FBI investigation of the underage pornography allegations. Will anyone in his shoes even think of initiating a new lawsuit as Mark Lutz promises? Add the fact that Prenda dismissed all the “real” plaintiff cases, leaving only ones that involve questionable, most likely fake (and in any case fraudulent) entities AF Holdings, Ingenuity 13, and Quad International.

     

    When I hear about these threats, I imagine a gang of gas station robbers who just had a successful heist and took all the cash from the cash register, but the ultimate greed made them crawl on the unwashed floor to collect stray coins from under-the-shelf filth.

 

Here is a call that was recorded last week:

Ohai Mark, I hear your voice has changed a little bit (compared to fatter days). Was it a result of a special treatment you received in the Mexican jail? Regardless, if you say “copyright infringement lawsuit” tens of thousands times, it becomes a sound signature that is nearly impossible to forge.

Also, I thought you stated under oath “I do not work for Prenda Law.” I’m sure that Judge Scriven will love to learn that you have committed a perjury. I know, I know: you will say that you worked for Prenda before, then retired, and now you are back to work for the ticket John Steele bough to get you out of hell, that you did not work for Prenda at the end of November, when the hearings took place. Whatever, we will see if your hogwash is capable of convincing anyone.

In the meantime, while Mark is still with dying “Prenda Law,” ransom letters that use a new letterhead have started to arrive:

 

Although this letter is slightly less brazen than its previous reincarnations, it does not pass the anti-bullshit test. As Raul has observed after the first glance,

  • Who are the “engineers”?
  • What are “activities violating computer intercept statutes”?, Note the plural: I thought Prenda was only using the CFAA.
  • The letter incorrectly implies that the recipient is a defendant in a filed lawsuit “arising from these activities.”

 

 

Again, on the surface:

  • “Client’s secured website” is unreasonably vague.
  • Claims are “very serious,” my ass.
  • “Severe monetary damages” is also unreasonably vague.
  • How does Prenda/Anti-Piracy Law Group know a lawsuit like this will cost over 100K to litigate through a jury verdict?
  • The letter poses two questions but does not really answer them.
Update 1

1/25/2013

  • According to comments and personal emails, people receive a lot of such calls, majority (if not all) refers to dismissed cases.
  • There is a couple of reports that while the voice undoubtedly belongs to Mark Lutz, the caller identifies himself (when he identifies himself at all) as Jeff Schultz. I’m investigating this claim and will followup.
  • Some calls reportedly come from 703-272-2013, there is a set of interesting reports about this number, suggesting that the Prenda spoofs the caller ID.
Update 2

02/01/2013

Here is another recorded message. This time the caller introduces himself as “Jeff Schultz,” yet people who have been harassed for a long time by Lutz confirmed that the voice belongs to this putz. Compare yourself:

 

02/15/2013

…and if you still think that Jeff Schultz is not Mark Lutz (of the other way around), here is another recording, this time the caller introduces himself as Mark Lutz:

 

I also heard a story when Prenda’s Harassment officer called himself “Mark” and “Jeff” during the same conversation. Are all the crooks that stupid?

 


¹ While “Prenda” was a rather neutral term (please don’t start the “Pretenda” joke), ironically the criminal enterprise has managed to embed the deceit as a modus operandi in its very name: one simply cannot be anti- its own turf. It’s like if a plumber would declare that he is anti-sewage. Or a lion would declare that he is anti-meat. John Steele does not even hide the fact that he loves the status quo regarding the online infringement: his (now temporarily defunct) Twitter account had a tagline “Just a small town boy who thanks Bram Cohen every $ingle day.”

You are correct.

In the meantime, John Steele discovered a new concept of judicial masturbation: a one-party lawsuit. Seriously. We all know how Prenda crooks have been doing a hard work of depriving people a say in the court, the very people they rape (again, in a judicial sense). First, scam artists argued that since subpoena is issued to an ISP, John and Jane Does have no standing to quash it. Didn’t work. Then a new trick was pulled out of the bag: to issue a subpoena not from a jurisdiction where a lawsuit is filed — with a sole goal to confuse John and Jane Does, as well as judges, making it unclear what court they should file their motions to quash with. Admonished by a couple of judges, trolls did not give up and came up with a concept of “co-conspirators” (not defendants — no standing), masking a mass shakedown lawsuits as single-defendant ones… If only this creativity was used to serve the society, not to rob it!

As the culmination of this crookery, John Steele (using an East Coast goon Daniel Ruggiero as a mouthpiece) declared that the sole defendant he is suing had no standing. I’m not joking.

This mind-bogging event happened in a federal case Guava v. John Doe (12-cv-11880) in Massachusetts. I wrote about this bad faith case recently in the post that dealt with the first powerful defense against the series of vindictive and vexatious lawsuits filed on behalf of a non-existent company “Guava LLC.” Two of our favorite attorneys, Dan Booth and Jason Sweet, have delivered a blow to Steele’s megalomaniacal march of naked kings. Defense asked the court to award fees for the prior action (an ongoing fraud in the IL Cook County court) before proceeding any further in this instant lawsuit.

Steele replied. As a rule of thumb, the more serious is a blow, the more hysterical is the reply (the most spiteful example is a sheer hysteria resulted from Erin Russell’s damage to what Prenda hoped to be a smooth extortion campaign). Steele asserted not only that the defendant in this case was not a defendant in the previous action, but also that the defendant in this case is not a defendant in this case (emphasis is mine):

Movants’ second critical flaw is that they¹ are not even defendants in this instant action. Plaintiff brought this action against an unknown defendant — John Doe. (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff plans on amending its complaint to name and serve an actual defendant in this action, but until that time, the only party to this litigation is Plaintiff. Again, a defendant is defined as “a person sued is a civil proceeding or accused in a criminal proceeding” Black’s Law Dictionary (9th ed. 2009). Movants’ claims that they are defendants in this action are premature, as they may never be named and served in this case. […] At that point, and only at that point, will Plaintiff take that information provided by the ISP, perform a further investigation, and decide whom (and if) to name as the Defendant in this suit, and amend the Complaint accordingly. Until that time, there is no identified Defendant in this action.

Daniel Booth’s reply was, as usual, simple and elegant: No defendant? No lawsuit!

Plaintiff’s solitary version of litigation has no place in the federal courts. As Plaintiff conceded in the prior action, “courts only have subject matter jurisdiction over justiciable matters, which are matters in controversy between an actual plaintiff and an actual defendant.” […] The Court should order Plaintiff to show cause why its one-party suit should not be dismissed.

It is unrealistic to expect anything but lies from Prenda. If, hypothetically, Steele decided to tell the truth just once, he must declare that this lawsuit not only lacks a defendant, but also a plaintiff (Guava LLC is a fake business that is not registered anywhere in the world: I challenge anyone to find such registration). Judicial celibacy would ensue.

Update
Media coverage

 


¹ You are probably confused: first it was a single defendant, now he or she is referred to as “they.” The reason is that the complaint asserts a single defendant who allegedly used three IP addresses. As the defense noticed, it is simply impossible that those IP addresses could belong to a single individual: those IP addresses resolve to different cities and even different ISPs. Double vision, triple vision… It’s not a secret that John Steele has a drinking problem, but I did not know that John is already reached the delirium tremens phase.

The apoplectic and misguided Prenda’s motion to disqualify Judge Otis Wright has been denied today by Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald.


Federal Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald

Anyone, who is familiar with the “Coopergate” — a damning accusation that Prenda Law is engaged in fraud, forgery, and identity theft — has no illusion why Brett Gibbs came up with this vexatious motion on the New Year’s Eve. It is clear that Gibbs has desperately attempted to delay the inevitable — the necessity to answer questions about the real owners of AF Holdings and Ingenuinty 13 — under penalty of perjury — as it was ordered by the judge, whom our lying little swindler attempted to remove from the case.

From the order:

Plaintiff’s Motion for Disqualification is without merit. Plaintiff alleges no facts to suggest that Judge Wright is biased or prejudiced against it. Plaintiff’s argument boils down its disagreement with the merits of Judge Wright’s discovery orders.

[…]

Here, Judge Wright’s conduct simply does not demonstrate any pervasive bias against Plaintiff or other copyright holders of pornographic or erotic material. At most, Plaintiff demonstrates that Judge Wright is concerned with the potential for discovery abuse.

 

The game is on. I have mixed feelings: sensing the pain of Prenda’s victims, I want this blain on the judicial body to burst as soon as possible. On the other hand, as a curious person, I am impatiently waiting for the next Prenda’s move: the experience shows that there is no limit to Gibbs’s creative douchebaggery. Wash your hands, ladies and gentlemen, in preparation to the next epic palmface.

A brief history of Prenda Law, by Morgan Pietz

Yesterday (on 1/14/2013) defense attorney Morgan Pietz filed an opposition to Gibbs’s frivolous disqualification request. This opposition has an interesting attachment (embedded below) — a declaration that tells the story of deception and fraud: a colorful brief history of Prenda Law. I commend Mr. Pietz for this thorough job: while many episodes of crookery and abuse are missing (for example, a farcical “informal discovery” campaign or Guava/Arte de Oaxaca fraud), all the major milestones were grasped with precision. It is difficult to say if Pietz’s opposition played a critical role in Judge Fitzgerald’s decision — maybe not: Gibbs himself made enough effort to communicate the fraudulent nature of his lawsuits to judges. Nonetheless, Morgan did a huge favor to anyone fighting Prenda — both lawyers and pro se parties — by providing a concise reference, a must have attachment to motions and declarations, especially in cases where judges are not familiar with the Prenda gang and the contents of its bag of tricks.

 

Visit Pietz Law Firm’s website to read the exhibits referred in this declaration.

Media coverage