The post below is a follow-up to the recent two articles:

 

This post is yet another community contribution, which makes me happy: this blog was never about me or my ego, and I’m always glad when more writers are involved.

Before I pass the pen to JoseDoe, I want to note that the missing exhibits to the bizarre troll Goodhue’s pleading (which is in the center of the ongoing discussion) have been finally filed today (see the docket, entry 59). The most interesting piece is John Steele’s sworn affidavit. In my opinion, John waived his 5th amendment rights by filing it. Someone has immediately noted that the notarized date is 5/28/2013, while Goodhue’s response to OSC was filed on 5/25/2013. Moreover, some quotes purportedly from this affidavit in the motion itself can’t be found in the affidavit (e.g., “cut down significant acreage of wood and unlawfully removed it from Steele’s property”). Indeed, it is hard to quote a document that does not exist yet.

 

 

By JoseDoe

I received a report from Aitken County on the land parcel that contains the former vacation home of John Steele, at 21251 220th St, Mc Grath, MN 56350 (Lat: 46.3329, Long: -93.2880). The parcel number is 25-0-008600, and the file is dated 12/12/2012, before the final sale of the property in February of 2013. The size of the parcel is 44.5 acres, according to Aitken County.

Who owned the land?

The first thing to note is that John Steele did not own this land. An entity called, variously SRR Properties LLC or Snake River Ranch, LLC owns it. I do not believe that it is the more famous Snake River Ranch in Wyoming that is buying property in Minnesota, either.

A check of the Minnesota Secretary of State shows that Snake River Ranch, LLC is a Limited Liability Corporation owned by… John Steele, with a mailing address to his next door neighbor. Just like Saltmarsh, Mooney, and Cooper, Steele appears to have named one of his shell companies after something else more famous. The LLC was founded two months before the deeding of the property over to it.

But it does get better. See Property Sale below.

 

How big is the property?

The property was conveyed to SRR in June of 2004, from the Estate of John Steele Sr., our troll’s father, who passed away in July 2003. The property was conveyed to SRR as a “Trade, Gift, or Estate” for $151,827.00. The Aitkin County Detailed Parcel Report (embedded above) states the parcel size at 44.50 acres. I searched various real estate websites, such as Zillow and Trulia. The size given for the property on Zillow is 125 acres. Here is a map of the parcel on Trulia:

 

The logical question is: who is right? The mix-up can be explained by the fact that the original estate was broken into three parcels (25-0-008600, 25-0-008800 and 25-0-008700): presumably one for each sibling. John got the cabins, Jayme and Elizabeth — only land.

How Clear the Cutting?

One of the more scurrilous allegation is contained on page 8, lines 19-20:

In September 2012 [...] [Alan Cooper] cut down significant acreage of wood and unlawfully removed it from Steele’s property…

There are two ways to refute this allegation: one is to compare before and after pictures, the second is to consider how something like that would be done.

Compare the ait-17-016 shot in 1998 with Google maps. I cannot guarantee that the satellite imagery is after February 2013, but the imagery is “copyright 2013.” Bing Maps shows similar imagery. In each case, there is no readily identifiable deforestation as alleged. The small trail that runs south to the river ford actually runs off the property lines in both the Trulia image as well as those general property lines formed by the tree lines. When John Steele allegedly went four-wheeling with Alan Cooper, he trespassed on his neighbor’s property.

Let us consider from where all these trees would have been cut. The ones lining 220th Street appear to be intact, as well as any other trees north of the river. This leaves south of the river. The trees there appear to be too small to harvest, especially when you look at photos 8 and 9 of the Trulia listing. But, for the sake of argument, let us say they were cut down. How were they removed? The only possible way is via the trail across the river ford. Certainly, dragging “significant acreage of wood” across the ford would have wreaked major destruction with the soft soil around the ford. None of this is evident in the aerial imagery.

I have not inquired as to where the trees would have gone, although if I were so moved, I would call a few of the licensed firewood vendors in the McGrath area and ask them if an Alan Cooper sold them live timber in September of last year.

Property Sale

According to Goodhue (Page 7, line 21), “In mid-2012, Steele listed his vacation property for sale by auction.” Well, this is curious. Because, Steele didn’t own the property, SRR did. But wait. According to the MN Secretary of State, Snake River Ranch, LLC was “Administratively Terminated” on 01/07/2008. It didn’t exist. It couldn’t sell anything. How can a terminated LLC convey good title to a plot of land?

But let’s examine the sale. On 8/19/2012, the property was first offered for sale for one dollar. It was listed under MLS# 4183515. On 10/02/2012, the price was pushed upward to $465,000. The property was sold on 2/28/2013 for $417,000.00. The listing was removed on 3/09/2013 at that same price. (all data from ReMAX Results) The agent appears to be Brent Berry. According to Realtor.com, both the buyer and seller used ReMAX Results as the property brokers. The current Zillow.com estimated price is just under $322,000 — the new owners are already $95,000 underwater, a loss of almost 23% in three months. The seller made out well. $417,000 – 6% realtor commission = 391,980 – 151,827 = $240,153 profit.

 

Taxes

Here’s where it gets interesting. If the LLC was administratively terminated, could it convey good title? What is the statute of limitations? What if John Steele signed as one of the officers of a defunct LLC, deeded the property over to the new owners, and just pocketed the check? He didn’t sell the property, the LLC did. But the LLC died five years previously. There’s also the wrinkle that this is a vacation home. I’ll have to research this some more, but it is possible that capital gains taxes may be due this year on the $240K profit Steele made on the sale of the property.

What does it all mean? It’s another typical Steele operation. The receipt, ownership, and sale of the property are cloaked in ambiguity. Did Steele own it or not? Who pays taxes on the gain? The Goodhue story of the widespread tree cutting cannot be countenanced, for the trees are too small to be commercially salable and their supposed removal left no traces on the landscape, as seen in images from 1998 and 2013.

But it’s a fair bet their neighbors can’t pick up their WiFi signal.

Another reader, who wished to remain anonymous, made a couple of notes independently. Here are the points that have not been addressed above:

  • I noticed that the property was sold in February, 2013 for full value. If the property was indeed damaged by a chainsaw there should have been a reduction in price or there would have been repair work done on the property. Another local realtor would know if the property was damaged or the price was reduced.
  • I would LOVE to know who the buyer was – and if they were told anything about cut timber or chainsaw damage. It’s a log cabin, after all. It would be pretty obvious if a repair had to be done. it’s not as simple as replacing some sheet rock.
Update

5/29/2013

The latest tax documents on the three parcels that were sold in February: all three now have the same owner:

5/30/2013

A Techdirt post explores yet another blooper in Steele’s declaration: John Steele’s Claims About Alan Cooper Contradicted By History by Mike Masnick.

Comments
  1. that anonymous coward says:

    Well golly gee, in my opinion, it sure does look like Mr. Steele has been up to no good.
    And if he claims ownership of a property in a legal document when he infact himself did not own it, isn’t that called deception… or trying to commit fraud upon the court?
    So Judge Wright was right…

    Oy Steele… still think sticking your dick in the hornets nest was a good idea?
    Hate you pookie, and I hope to see you in chains real soon.

  2. That is pretty country up there, maybe it’s time to drive up and knock on the door. If no one answers maybe take a walk around.

    • SJD says:

      I have a friend in WI who has a pilot license. If I visit him in the near future, I can try to convince him to give me a lift :)

  3. Anonymous says:

    From what I could tell, the Bing images were from 2011 even though they were copyright 2013. There is a website that layers this data on the Bing maps that I checked.

    • SJD says:

      I’ve been told that Google Earth has the image dates. Can anyone check? I don’t have GE installed at the moment.

  4. Anonymous says:

    BTW, Zillow estimates are far from scientific.

    • JoseDoe says:

      Unlike Steele, I am totally willing to learn where I was incorrect and post an amendation or correction. Thank you for both your notice of the imagery date as well as the Zillow issue.

      Zillow might be unscientific, but it is pretty close to the assessment as shown on the Aitken County Parcel Report. Short of calling up Brother Berry at ReMAX Results to get an estimate, Zillow and other services like that are the best we can do.

  5. […] Alan Cooper fable: more scrutiny and more questions […]

  6. WDS says:

    I’m confused about the entire address thing. All of this is about 21251. Steele said he sold 21067 which according to both Google and Bing would be the property on the approx 40 acres that is the missing part of the square on the picture with the property boundary from Trulia. If Cooper sold the wood, he wouldn’t have had to go far. Right across the street of 21067 is what on Bing appears to be a firewood operation.

  7. WDS says:

    Image date on Google Earth is 6/23/2010, so nothing to be gleaned from either Google or Bing in reference to the wood cutting.

    • WDS says:

      Replying to my own post. While the imagery on Google or Bing offer no evidence on the wood cutting, you would assume that the aerial tour of the property for the late 2012 auction would have been flown and taken after Berry got the contract to sell it. There is no evidence of freshly cut timer in the video footage.

  8. WDS says:

    I don’t want to sound like I’m cutting JoseDoe, who obviously put in a lot of time researching this, but the profit figures are wrong. The $151,xxx price if for approx 40 acres while the $417,000 sale price was for 120+ acres. Of course the question then becomes how did John or the LLC get control of the other 80 acres.

    • JoseDoe says:

      @WDS, No cutting at all. I welcome all enlightenment. For example, how did you winkle out the date on the imagery? I tried, but could not find anything.

      As for the profit. The other two parcels are river bottom land, left fallow. They would not change appreciably in value from 2004 until now. The cabin, however, appears on the Real Estate listings as having been built in 2006. Now, I have no idea how much Steele put into the construction of the cabin, but it is fairly certain that there was at least some profit. Was it 240? Depends on the construction costs. One thing is for certain, the assessment is for 322k, and the sale was for 417, so there is at least some profit, since most places set your assessment at new home construction at the price of construction.

      That still leaves the tax questions…

      Remember, this is a rather fluid assessment, as new info is coming in all the time.

      • SJD says:

        I believe that 2006 date of the construction is bogus. It was built much earlier.

        • WDS says:

          Google Earth has 6 older images available as well as the latest 2011 one. As far back as 1999 there was a structure at the location of the large cabin, but it was obviously smaller. The quality of the older images is not the best, but Sept 2006 is the first one where it appears to me that the full structure is there. I can’t tell if the old one was added on to or if it was demolished and the new one built. The 2003 & 2004 images are pretty hard to tell anything from. The 2006 is pretty bad as well, but on it you can see what looks like shadows of the entry porch of the new structure.

      • WDS says:

        Re: Date of Imagery. On Google earth it is in the left bottom corner on screen, next to a hot link that lets you look at older imagery. As far as the Bing goes, I was trusting the person who posted above who said the imagery was from 2011.

  9. JoseDoe says:

    But 21067 looks nothing like the property sold, nor does it have the twin cabins as described. On Bing Maps, it’s listed as “Jack’s Shack”, but the address, according to Google, is 21049 220th Street in McGrath. I really don’t want to bother the good folks up there, but I suspect they knew all the players in this saga and would make some great sources of information.

    • WDS says:

      I agree the 21251 looks like the cabins in the various real estate postings. I found various postings showing the same pictures with both addresses. The question is who owns 21067 since that is also the address of the LLC? The more I look at this the more confused I get.

      Also in reference to the load bearing wall, from looking at the picture of the small cabin the only place I can figure their would have been an interior load bearing wall would be where what appears to be an add on with the roof line changing would be. Other than that it looks like the ridge beam on the main section is hefty enough to carry the roof load without intermediate support. I’m aware that is a lot of assumptions to make from looking at one exterior picture.

    • WDS says:

      I see nothing on the Bing maps that looks like a Restaurant. I assume that the Jack’s Shack was built after the arial shots were taken. My best guess would be on the cleared piece of land with the 3 bales blocking the drive right to the east of 21067.

      • Johnny says:

        Maybe “Jack’s Shack” is a name of a Steele porn production company with at business address located at that address. John Steele is so “clever” I wouldn’t put it past him.

        I feel sorry for John Steele’s siblings who are now under he scrutiny of the “Internet” bc their brother is a jerk ( my opinion ).

  10. Steele is so considerate – It appears he did not file charges against Cooper, or so the court records say.

    • JoseDoe says:

      But the real question is: Is there any record of a call to the cops? Brent Berry said he called them, and the sheriff does not appear to have an online blotter. I would love to catch him in a lie.

  11. Nicholas Weaver says:

    Rocky Wiggins is probably a legitimate buyer. I suspect (found on LinkedIn) the recently hired (<2 year ago) CIO of Sun Country Airlines by that name, and matches geographically (lives in Georgia, but Sun Country is headquarters in Minneapolis).

    And Zillow right now is Bat-S@#)(* insane at times. If someone offered me what Zillow thinks my house is worth I'd move in a nanosecond.

    • SJD says:

      He exists on Twitter, but the account is protected.

    • SJD says:

      Let me remind you about two January tweets made by @bittorentbull’s (a.k.a. John Steele):

      • Anonymous says:

        What does the 0-3 refer to?

        • SJD says:

          Initially Godfread filed free style letters in 4 MN cases. One was voluntarily dismissed, so I guess Steele refers to the other three. In one of them judge said that he won’t consider this letter, in the other two judges simply ignored it. I’m not aware of any other “losses” by mid-January (the time of the tweet).

        • Anonymous says:

          Then what does the iPhone have to do with it? Could Steele be referring to the missing civil litigation against Cooper regarding damage to the MN property?

        • ongchotwi says:

          Anonymous:
          The iPhone is in reference to a collection of text messages that were introduced in an attempt to show that Alan Cooper was crazy. Noted problems with said collection: No proof that they came from Alan Cooper. No proof that they were sent when it was claimed they were sent. The cracked iphone screen bore an amazing resemblance to an online app that allowed you to create fake iphone text messages and print them out. The text messages were photocopied, and it looked like they were photocopied printouts, not photocopies of an actual iPhone. The text that was claimed to come from Alan Cooper seemed to be purposefully illiterate. The whole thing screamed FAKE!!!! (Did I miss any of the many failings of those text messages?)

          Anyone have a link to our previous discussion of what was wrong with that exhibit? :)

  12. PleasePassThePopcorn says:

    How much does a next door neighbor get for acting as your Limited Liability Corporation these days? Maybe his neighbor should get the check from the sale of the property?

    (great post btw)

    • WDS says:

      I’m guessing that who ever owns that plot is related somehow, if it isn’t John himself. It looks like it is a missing piece of a 1/4 section of land. I’m betting the entire 1/4 section was originally in the Steele family.

  13. ongchotwi says:

    http://homes.cbeastwestrealty.com/idx/details/homes/a321/1953188 This sure looks like the pics you’ve been showing of 21251.

    • PleasePassThePopcorn says:

      I’m not a builder but I would stick my neck out and say that cabin only has 1 interior bearing wall and if you took it out the roof would collapse. Which brings us back to “moral turpitude” or what Stephen Colbert says ‘truthiness”

  14. Anonymous says:

    Just to point out: it’s extremely unlikely any kind of structure would still be standing if you remove the load bearing wall and ALL the interior walls (according to John Steele’s declaration). It would look pretty much like that picture you’ve used on your previous article, SJD.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Actually you can remove ALL the interior walls and have a structurally sound building so long as the load-bearing walls are intact. That is precisely what happens in a typical “gut rehab”. However, removing all the interior walls also implies removing all plumbing, HVAC, and electrical since those typically pass through the non-load bearing interior walls. That, combined with the structural damage from taking a chainsaw to a the load-bearing wall, would make for one incredibly expensive repair bill. It might be cheaper to bulldoze the structure to the foundation and start over.

    As for the price history, a lot of properties get initially listed for $1. Two possible explanations are:

    1. The price hadn’t be finalized but the broker wanted notice of the sale to be posted immediately on the MLS so that potential buyers would know it was available.

    2. The property was encumbered by a big mortgage and the deal was really $1 and assumption of the debt (less likely of the two scenarios).

    As for the extinct SRR LLC, when a company is administratively liquidated the assets revert to the members of the LLC which we can assume is Steele. So yes, Steele can pass good title since title would have reverted to him when the LLC died.

    • Anonymous says:

      re: price of $1: If you look at the link above from onchotwi, it has a price of $1 and the description says “… live auction 9/29 1p.m. starting bid $390k”. It doesn’t show the year, but shows status as Active. And shows a “listing number” that does not match the MLS referenced in the article. But the 9/29 auction could coincide with a listing date of August 2012.

  16. SteveG says:

    The LLC listed as the seller, SRR Properties, doesn’t even appear to be associated with Steele (assuming it’s this one, incorporated in MN):

    http://mblsportal.sos.state.mn.us/Business/BusinessSearch?BusinessName=SRR%20Properties&Status=Active&Type=BeginsWith

    • WDS says:

      SRR Properties and SRR, LLC are two different entities. SRR, LLC no longer exists.
      It appears SRR Properties is named for the Initials of the two principles, where SRR, LLC was named for Snake River Ranch.

  17. PleasePassThePopcorn says:

    I noticed the “cut down significant acreages of wood and unlawfully removed it from Steele’s property ” in Goodhue’s response isn’t even listed in Steele’s affidavit. What good is a response if only some of the items in it are sworn to?

    • WDS says:

      That’s what happens when you write and file the response before the affidavit is written.

      • PleasePassThePopcorn says:

        Yup and just speculation but maybe you had time to rethink about how easy it might be for someone to check the property for acres of stumps & disturbed ground from the harvest and think better about swearing to that one.

    • MarkH says:

      Is it just me, or does it appear like the notarization is a bit off? Irma Calderon notarized it on the 28th, but the name she wrote in doesn’t look right. She prints “John” clearly, and then switches her font (lol) half way through the name? Does that name look anything like “John Steele”?

  18. MarkH says:

    Ok, I managed to zoom into it a bit, and it looks like it is “John Lawrence …”, which is apparently his first and middle name. But the “E…” still doesn’t look like Steele. I am dyslexic so it takes me some time on these sorts of things. Then my ADD kicks in and I can’t let it go. :)

    • JodithA says:

      Hmmm…I think MarkH has a point. I’m a notary as well, and looking at that certificate, it just looks wrong. When you’re filling out a notarial certificate, you don’t just go from print to cursive to print while you’re filling out a name. Also, everythig on the certificate is in cursive, including the superscript on the date. Absolutely nothing else is printed. It looks like a very poorly done hack job to me. The ending “e” on Lawrence look partly erased (which isn’t consistent with the notary’s other writing, and if you look at the last name, it looks like there’s writing under those last two letters (possibly two “l”s.

      Whilel I’m not a notary in florida, I’ve talked to a number of them on-line on Notary Rotary. Florida laws are pretty strict and a fair bit of education required. This just does not look right from what I know about Florida notaries. If I were the court, I’d be questioning the notary about that notarization to confirm it wasn’t tampered with after she signed it.

      • Anonymous says:

        The “r” doesn’t match when you look at Irma’s signature. Also, could the “Law” in “Lawrence” have once said “Prenda Law”? That would explain the “John” part looking so different.

        • Anonymous says:

          It’s fishy. Notice how the last page is crooked and it’s the only one. It was obviously a copy of something. But if the signature and notary are forged, we’ve got to ask why? The only think that makes sense to me is that Steele refused to sign and the local attorney forged his signature because he had already filed the pleading. Of course, wouldn’t it make more sense to just tell the truth and ask the judge to let you out of the case?

        • Anonymous says:

          I get it now. It’s obvious in retrospect.

          My guess is that Steele wants to file this declaration in some cases and be able to claim it’s a forgery in others. So he mucked it up a bit before filing it. This is only my guess, but time will tell.

  19. WDS says:

    Having gotten those county records, I would be very interested to know who owns that last 40 acres in the 1/4 section. The one with the mailing address for the LLC.

    • CTVic says:

      LOL @ header graphic. Copyright nipples FTW!

    • SJD says:

      Clair started writing this piece back in March. I don’t know how many hours did she spent, I assume a lot. I saw a lot of examples of sloppy reporting in so called “big media”: Clair’s work is the very definition of the opposite to “sloppiness.” The number of people she interviewed (including yours truly) to get 100% understanding of the trolling world is staggering. Great job!

    • Ron Mexico says:

      Solid read. Love seeing the press coverage in the major publications like Forbes and Business Week

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