Posts Tagged ‘Alpha Law Firm’


Hennepin County District Court Judge
Tanya M. Bransford

Remember Guava LLC v. Merkel? A collusive Prenda’s lawsuit filed in Hennepin County court in Minneapolis? I thought that this lawsuit was over, and I was gladly surprised to learn (hat tip to Jason Sweet) that yesterday Judge Tanya M. Bransford ordered Prenda parties (Guava LLC, Michael Dugas and Paul Hansmeier’s Alpha Law Firm) to jointly and severally pay $63,367.02 in attorney fees.

What we have at this moment is the order only, a detailed memorandum is yet to come. I will update this post when it is up.

The last paragraph in this order is worth mentioning: it preemptively kills any Prenda’s trolling lawsuit in Minnesota’s Hennepin County (if the gang dares to return to trolling, which is highly unlikely).

Plaintiff Guava LLC, Michael K. Dugas, Esq., Alpha Law Firm LLC and any of their agents, officers, directors, employees, representatives, affiliates, and successors, are hereby enjoined from filing any future civil action against the John Does or the ISPs, without first posting a bond with the Court in the amount of $10,000, or such other amount as the Court deems appropriate, and without first obtaining a certificate of authority from the Minnesota Secretary of State.

Kudos to the judge: unlike Illinois’ Cook County’s Judge Sanjay Taylor, who knew that a similar Guava lawsuit was a fraud but cowardly allowed it to be dismissed and forgotten, Judge Bransford made sure that justice was served.

 

 

Media coverage
Update

9/3/2013
As promised, Judge Brandsford’s Memorandum following her order is available.

The most notable is the Footnote 3 that will undeniably cast a dark shadow on the future law career of Michael Dugas:

This Court finds that Dugas lacks any credibility with this Court based upon the actions he has taken in this matter. Therefore, any declaration and testimony offered is discredited with this Court.

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
One of the best ways to kill an impending flu is to take an extended dose of vitamin C and have a good sleep at the very first, subtle signs of sickness. If you ignore slightly sore throat and running nose, and let the disease take over, you will have to live with fever and headache for at least a week.

The above is analogous to our judicial system based on the case law. Those districts where judges fell for trolls’ lies, are dealing with consequences of letting scumbags use courts as a cheap way to obtain personal information of ISP subscribers. These consequences include clogged dockets, inconsistent rulings, and judges realizing that they were gamed but being reluctant to admit the initial shortsightedness.

On the other hand, those districts where judges sensed abuse at once and killed the disease in its infancy, don’t have this plethora of unnecessary problems. Virginia and Georgia are among the states that ousted trolls quickly, and now Minnesota has joined the club.

On 7/5/2012 Magistrate Judge Franklin L. Noel, killed five identical cases¹ against individuals that Prenda Law (under the disguise of an earlier Steele’s outfit — Alpha Law Firm) brought on behalf of a phony offshore porn purveyor, AF Holdings².

This order is both symbolic and humiliating to Prenda. Symbolic because Minnesota is the state where Steele made his first steps as a troll (and where his wannabe forensic “expert” Peter Hansmeier lives), and humiliating due to its brevity: as if the judge tells us that Prenda’s foul intentions are so painfully clear that it is not worth time and paper to explain the obvious.

Not surprisingly, the crooks appealed the magistrate’s decision to the district judge on the same day, but I bet that this is futile: once judges understand the anatomy of the scam and learn about Prenda’s criminal activity all over the country, there is no way their opinion can be swayed.

Meet the attorney

For almost a year John Steele promises to hire an army of attorneys, and it was a rolling joke all this time. At best, he was able to hire an army of robots to call and harass people in violation of multiple state and federal laws. Despite the public perception, it is very hard to find an attorney who is eager to take a sleazy, borderline illegal job no matter how good the salary is. However, it is not impossible, especially if a lawyer is an arrogant college graduate and lacks the wisdom of a seasoned professional.

Meet Michael K Dumas (the same last name as another Prenda’s goon Matthew E Dumas that currently terrorizes Indiana — coincidence?), a Prenda employee that I never heard about, though he lists Prenda as his employer since August 2011 (NB: Prenda Law did not exist at that time).

I mentioned arrogance and lack of experience not merely to insult Dumas. Look what he wrote in the above-linked objection:

The final factor on which Magistrate Judge Noel premised his denial of Plaintiff’s expedited discovery application was that “the pornographic copyright holder’s activities in pursuit of settlement agreements may constitute an ‘abuse of the judicial system.’” (ECF No. 7.) (emphasis added). Plaintiff is deeply disturbed by the prospect of inferior access to the federal courts by virtue of its participation in the adult industry. Surely it would not be appropriate for a federal judge to say, “the female copyright holder’s activities”, or “the black copyright holder’s activities,” or “the Muslim copyright holder’s activities.” Yet, for reasons that are unclear, Magistrate Judge Noel was comfortable referencing “the pornographic copyright holder’s activities.” Plaintiff readily concedes that it, as an adult content producer, is unlikely to win a popularity contest with the general public. Nevertheless, it believes that it, as well as every other unpopular group, is entitled to equal access to the courts.

Even for a person who never heard about trolls, it is clear that the emphasis in the judge’s phrase was not the one Dumas was trying to explore, but rather the “activities in pursuit of settlement,” a reasonable concern, to put it mildly. “Pornographic” was just a statement of the fact. As a result, the entire paragraph turned out to be nothing more than a red herring. In addition, invoking racism/sexism analogies was disingenuous.

The objection is also full of lies about how discovery has helped Prenda identify the infringer in the past. Troll cite to Prenda’s negligence cases and deposition cases in support of this, despite the fact that those cases specifically say that Prenda doesn’t know who the infringer is.

To be honest, I’m tired of Steele’s games. When I think about all the mingled connections, real and phony, attempts to hide truth and ongoing puke of a desperate evil mind, I imagine a product of the drain rodding: tangled hair mixed with grease. The good thing is that the rodding is underway, and soon we will forget about the sewer smell Prenda.


¹ 0:12-cv-01445-JNE-FLN, 0:12-cv-01446-JNE-FLN, 0:12-cv-01447-JNE-FLN, 0:12-cv-01448-JNE-FLN, and 0:12-cv-01449-JNE-FLN.

² It is rumored that AF Holdings is nothing but MCGIP resurrected in a tax haven of Saint Kitts and Nevis. Now-defunct MGIP has been dubbed as “mini-Righthaven” by Nicholas Ranallo. While it is just a rumor, it is very plausible, especially if you read Nick’s article and notice the role Alpha Law Firm plays in Steele’s criminal activity, and I hope that IRS and/or FBI will be checking this lead soon.

Note that a “reputable” lawfirm Alpha Law erased its website: Steele’s accomplice in extortion, Steve Jones, erased the website of his allegedly forensic company “Arcadia Security” too. An expected behavior of desperate idiots?