Posts Tagged ‘Graham Syfert’

Prenda’s Sunlust Pictures LLC, v. Nguyen, (12-cv-01685) has started as a comedy, continued as a farce, and now enters the Theatre of the Absurd domain.

Last time I wrote about this eventful lawsuit less than a month ago and covered two significant events:

  • On 4/11/2013 defense attorney Graham Syfert stipulated withdrawal of his motion for sanctions against Matt Wasinger¹ and Brett Gibbs. As a part of the agreement, Gibbs filed a declaration, which unambiguously stated that the real puppeteers in this and hundreds of other lawsuits had always been John Steele and Paul Hansmeier. These two crooks continue to vigorously deny their involvement amid the overwhelming evidence and the deafening sounds of the spectators’ reflexive facepalms.
  • On 4/23/2013 Judge Mary Scriven issued a strongly worded order, granting Wasinger’s motion to withdraw and directing the plaintiff to urgently find a new counsel, who must promptly reply to Syfert’s pending motion for fees and costs. The judge was clear: if the substitution does not happen, this motion will be granted.

The actors in this comedy/farce/absurd case continue to live up to our expectations: four pleadings of various entertainment values were filed over the course of one week — since 4/29/2013.

Theatre of the absurd and alternate history

The fist and the funniest document is John Steele’s pro se motion for sanctions (he excused himself for publicly doing pro se despite being represented because “Brett Gibbs’ [sic] contradictory testimony in this matter has created an apparent conflict of interest…” — see the Footnote 1).

In a pot-calls-the-kettle-back fashion, Steele accuses Syfert of a fraud on the court. Why? Because, according to Steele’s words (and John is a paragon of candor, as you all know), the abovementioned Gibbs’s declaration is “demonstrably false.”

Wow. Let me remind you that Judge Scriven dismissed this very case (emphasis is mine)

[…] for failure to appear at this hearing, for failure to present a lawful agent, for attempted fraud on the Court by offering up a person who has no authority to act on behalf of the corporation as its corporate representative […]


Prenda’s paralegal Mark Lutz,
without a coat and a tie

Let’s get back to Gibbs’s declaration… An obvious main goal of Steele’s motions is to neutralize the devastating effect of the said declaration, to “prove” that Gibbs is essentially lying, and hence to get spared from Syfert’s motions for sanctions (and a nationwide avalanche of similar motions).

To facilitate this “proof,” Steele presents a couple of exhibits (not separate PDFs, but appended to the motion):

  • An email from Syfert to Steele’s/Gibbs’s attorney Katherine Yanes, which does not stand out as anything illegal and/or unethical — a usual lawyerly correspondence, which Syfert definitely expected to be publicized: it happens all the time.
  • Mark Lutz’s declaration that presents an alternate history (a popular science fiction genre), but does it by also using the legacy of the XX century absurdists.
    • According to this declaration, Mark knew Daniel Weber and his generous wife Sunny Leone very well and spoke to them “multiple times in the past.” In real world, he denied this knowledge under oath on 11/27/2012. By the way, in his statement Lutz misspelled Weber’s last name (“Webber”).
    • There is an interesting exhibit to Mark Lutz’s declaration — a “Letter of Engagement” — signed by Paul Duffy purportedly on 11/15/2011. This document is not only absurd, but also, according to Syfert, a fake one (read the next chapter).

      Mark has been a big businessmen (albeit without a tie), a manager of his own adult companies. He even hired Prenda to represent his companies in courts! Big client my ass! It does not matter that in real, not alternate history, during the last two years a paralegal Mark Lutz (or, sometimes his alter-DID-ego Jeff Schultz) made thousands of calls with the signature line “This is Prenda Law calling,” and who listed himself as a “Client Services Manager for Prenda Law” on his (now removed) LinkedIn page. His notarized (on 1/10/2012) affidavit (page 15) unambiguously states:

      1. I am Mark Lutz, a paralegal formally at Steele Hansmeier, PLLC, and now employed by Prenda Law, Inc.

      So, Mark Lutz employed Prenda at the same time Prenda employed Mark Lutz. Marvelous. “In order to understand recursion, you must understand recursion.”

And this is just a couple of examples of small lies, half-truths and bluffs. If you read the November 27 transcript and Steele’s motion/Lutz’s declaration side by side, you will be overwhelmed with the number of contradictory statements.

The games Steele plays are ballsy and dangerous. Gibbs, most likely, has tons of evidence to support his claims, while Steele has to resort to stories that make Ionescu plays look concise.

Naturally, by neglecting a time-consuming task to reconcile statements made at different times, these guys want to buy as much time as possible to collect an extra buck (the extortion machine is still runs full revs: people report Lutz’s harassment calls and Duffy’s illegal letters daily). The only difference is that the time these guys are buying is now packaged in very small bags.

Graham Syfert’s third motion for sanctions: accusations of faking a document

I will not comment on Syfert’s third motion for sanctions that was filed on 5/1/203, soon after Steeles’ pro se short story in the alternate history genre. Unlike that story, the document embedded below can be read without rolling your eyes and shaking your head. In short,

  • Syfert adds a new “non-party” to the list of those who should be sanctioned, namely Paul Hansmeier, which is expected and natural.
  • In addition, Syfert shows the results of his homework: he went through hundreds 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 signed at the alleged time: in 2011 all the letters contained Prenda’s Miami address, while the exhibit to Steele’s delirious motion shows the Chicago address only — a change that did not happen until around 2/29/2012.
White collar crime defenders look to withdraw from this mess. Judge Scriven strikes Steele’s motion

Steele’s motion discussed above was stricken on 5/2/2013 by the judge: according to the M.D. Fla. Local Rule 2.03(d),

Any party for whom a general appearance of counsel has been made shall not thereafter take any step or be heard in the case in proper person, absent prior leave of Court…

In other words, while a party (or a non-party) is represented, it cannot file pleadings pro se. Although Steele’s “white collar crime defending” attorneys indicated their intention to withdraw from the case (yet asking for an extension citing Brett Gibb’s out-of-the country honeymoon), they still formally represent Steele.

If you re-read Steele’s motion, you will find another yummy irony: by arguing that Syfert broke one of the M.D. Fla. Local Rules and filed his second motion for sanction without leave of court, Steele demonstrated once again his ability to read the rules selectively: as I just mentioned, the basis for striking his motion can be found in the same set of rules.

There is one unanswered question: what are the implications of Steele’s motion being stricken from the docket? I’m mostly concerned about the exhibits, one of which is claimed to be fake (“Letter of Engagement”) and the other may lead to perjury charges (Lutz’s affidavit). If the entire document is stricken, can the exhibits be admitted as evidence for any purpose? So far I couldn’t find the answer.

Mark Twain to Prenda

Once upon a time, in an alternate history, Mark Twain was addressing Steele, Hansmeier, Duffy, Gibbs and Lutz. One of his wise phrases from that speech is particularly worth reminding:

If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.

 


¹ Reminder: Wasinger is one of the tree short-term attorneys for Sunlust on this case: all of them, after learning the extent of Prenda’s infamous douchebaggery, ran from this case as from plague.

Thanks to Judge Wright’s resolution to get to the bottom of Prenda-related controversies, the poo-throwing among the Prenda gang members has recently escalated dramatically. In this light, yesterday’s event is not surprising. We covered the Sunlust fiasco (Sunlust Pictures v. Tuan Nguyen (12-cv-01685) extensively in December. This coverage started with a hilarious hearing where a stand-up comedian Mark Lutz tried to dupe Judge Scriven into believing that he was a Sunlust representative. Later we also wrote about apparent fact-bending in the series of declarations by the plaintiff and his lawyers, which resulted in a motion for sanctions against Gibbs, Steele, Duffy and Wasinger filed by the defendant’s attorney Graham Syfert. It is also worth mentioning that Prenda’s members (for the first time, to the best of my knowledge) have lawyered up.

Although the transcript from Judge Scriven’s courtroom gained a status of celebrity among court transcripts and was exhibited in numerous motions across the country, the case itself remained dormant for months — until yesterday.

On 4/11/2013 Syfert decided to withdraw his motion for sanction against Gibbs. In addition, all the issues with Matt Wasinger have been resolved. According to Syfert’s motion, this young attorney was “duped” by Prenda — he became Prenda’s local counsel for a short time, but unlike many other “local representatives,” either obtuse or ethically challenged, quickly understood that his career was at serious stake and called it quits.

The reason why Gibbs was also spared can be found in his damning declaration, which was filed as an exhibit to the motion embedded above. While the new statements contradict Gibbs’s previous ones, Gibbs seems to be more truthful now. He speaks about the lawyers who de-facto drove the lawsuit in question (it is not a big stretch to assume it to be true for all the other Florida cases). Is anyone surprised that these lawyers appear to be… John Steele and Paul Hansmeier?

Although those who have been following the Prenda quest find nothing new in Gibbs’s declaration, it is notable that his confession is now written is stone — in a public court document. No matter how obvious some things are, Prenda’s lawyers were good at concealing the smoking gun, and judges don’t like hearsay and conspiracy theories. Now we have juicy evidence.

In my opinion, one particular consequence for Steele is that Gibbs’s words imply that Steele and Hansmeier have been driving the Florida lawsuits, 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 prohibiting practicing Law without license in Florida is rarely enforced; such practice is still a third-degree felony.

Media coverage
Update

4/24/2013

On 3/23/2014 Judge Scriven issued a strongly worded order, letting Matt Wasinger go (I sincerely wish good luck to him) and instructing plaintiff to find a new counsel in 2 weeks and after that to file an opposition to Syfert’s motion for sanctions. Otherwise she promises to grant this motion and order Prenda to pay up:

Followup
Update on the Sunlust fiasco

Previous coverage:

 

Despite the slow week, it did not take long for the defendant counsel Graham Syfert to react to the white collar crime defenders’ opposition to motion for sanctions in Sunlust Pictures v. Tuan Nguyen case (12-cv-01685). This time Graham concentrated on John Steele, accusing him of multiple fraudulent actions:


Pornographer Daniel Weber in India
  • Forgery of the first, and, possibly, second declaration of plaintiff’s principal, Daniel Weber. I wrote an investigative piece about it on 12/30/2012. Syfert analyzed the same sources (Web(b)er’s declarations and the Twitter feeds of both Sunlust Pictures principals Daniel Weber and his generous wife Sunny Leone) and, unsurprisingly, came to similar conclusions. In addition to our findings (misspelled surname, location and suspicious signatures), he also proves that it was physically impossible to fax the first declaration from India:

    Assuming that the fax was in the custody and control of Daniel Weber from execution to transmission, even if Mr. Weber owned or chartered a private jet capable of near supersonic speeds, it is still impossible that the affidavit was executed on the 17th in India and faxed from India on the 19th. The only possible way Mr. Weber had custody and control of Declaration of Daniel Webber from signing to transmittal, would be that it was executed in India and faxed from Los Angeles, which would just be odd.

  • Multiple misstatements, half-truths and outright lies in John Steele’s declaration and other documents. In particular, Graham Syfert:
    1. questioned the purported sale of “Steele Law Firm,”
    2. debunked John Steele’s arrogant statements that “all the bar complaints against him have been thrown out,”
    3. ridiculed John’s explanation of communicating with Mark Lutz in the courtroom (“Hey Mark, I’m here!”),
    4. analyzed mail recipients of the email chains between Gibbs and local attorneys, noting that while neither the “official” Prenda principal Paul Duffy, nor Plaintiff representatives were even included, the “BCC” field listed both John Steele and Paul Hansmeier — actual puppeteers of the ongoing criminal tragicomedy.
  • The following witty (yet absolutely up-to-the point ) paragraph has made my day, and, I hope, yours (the emphasis is mine)¹:

    Defendant previously filed for sanctions against Mr. Steele for his role in the November 27th hearing, and alleged that he drafted the letter sent to the court by Paul Duffy wherein Mr. Duffy stated he could not attend due to eye surgery. Mr. Duffy has filed a sworn statement that he wrote the letter. Dkt. # 40, Ex B. Therefore, Defendant withdraws only that portion of the previous motion for sanctions against John Steele to the extent that it alleged Mr. Steele wrote Mr. Duffy’s eye surgery excuse letter. In withdrawing that portion of the first motion for sanctions, Defendant has learned the valuable lesson that the name assigned to a specific electronic device does not necessarily mean that a person committed a wrongful act. Defendant and Defendant’s counsel apologize to Mr. Steele for his accusation in that matter.

    I hope that everyone has read the document in its entirety and did not miss some truly amazing pieces. If you did miss them though, I quote a couple (emphasis of the hilarity is mine):

    The Affidavit of Daniel Weber states that he was “unexpectedly in Los Angeles” which in itself seems peculiar, but his tweets show that he had dinner in Los Angeles on the 23rd of November and took his dog “Chopper” to the vet on November 24th.

    […]it is also apparent that Mr. Weber was in New York City on November 30th, 2012, attending a party at Club Pranna on Madison Avenue and 28th Street.

    It is obvious from the public statements made, that as far as Mr. Weber was “unexpectedly in Los Angeles” he was also unexpectedly in New York three days after the hearing, attending a posh New York night club event with the other principal of Sunlust, his wife, Sunny Leone. Defendant found no details as to whether Chopper was also in attendance.

    Paragraph twenty of Steele’s affidavit states that he drove with Mark Lutz to Tampa to observe the hearing before this court, but paragraph twenty-one states that in the middle of the court proceeding, he felt the need to reassure his existence to Mark Lutz. (Dkt #40, Ex. D) Although they had spent four hours in a car together, found a parking spot together, went through security together, rode up in the elevator together, and entered the courtroom together, John Steele asks this court to believe that he suddenly felt compelled to notify Mr. Lutz, “Hey, I’m here.” as if Mr. Lutz was worried about John Steele suddenly abandoning him in Tampa, or turning invisible like a superhero.

    Defendant should not be forced to continuously be a gatekeeper of the correct spelling of the name of Plaintiff’s principals or the truth of statements made in this court under penalty of perjury.

    Media coverage
    Update

    1/14/2013
    On 1/14/2013 “white collar crime defenders” James E. Felman and Katherine E. Yanes replied to Syfert’s Second Motion for Sanctions, calling defendant’s accusations that are based on undeniably solid evidence “speculations.” One word: unconvincing. Well, I probably had unreasonably heightened expectations from this firm, but given the weakness of this opposition, KMF is rather a below-the-average provincial law firm. A tendency to simply ignore addressing tough accusations (the bogus dog excuse, for example), instead concentrating on relatively weaker opponent’s arguments or procedural issues is more a sign of a forum troll than a good lawyer. While reading this document by itself, it looks decent, but try to read it side-by-side with Syfert’s… Meh.

     


    ¹ I’ll try to explain the irony to the visitors who are not so familiar with the copyright trolling phenomenon: one of the gruesome and predatory features of the current blizzard of copyright infringement lawsuits is the astonishing percentage of false positives. In many occurrences (sometimes in 30% of all cases, as one infamous copyright troll, Mike Meier, admitted on the record) troll lawyers harass and extort people who have nothing to do with the alleged wrongdoing, but simply happen to pay the Internet bill (i.e. their name was “assigned to a specific electronic device”: a cable or DSL modem).

    Previous coverage on Sunlust Pictures, LLC v. Nguyen (FLMD 12-cv-01685):

     

    Yesterday I broke the news that Prenda gang hired an outside law firm to prevent (or rather to slowdown) scam artists’ inevitable downfall. At the time of the writing, I was not aware that on the same day (yesterday) two important events happened.

     

    1

    On 12/20/2012 “White collar crime defenders” filed an opposition to Syfert’s motion. What can I say? Professional weaselness is apparent. They are good lawyers. Good fantasy skills. Yet because Steele’s gang is so deep in the excrements of its own production, I doubt that even a star lawyer can salvage the situation. The part aimed at explaining why Mr. Steele wife’s info ended up in the metadata is ridiculous and ironic. This days and age no one “inherits” someone’s computer with all the software installed. Note that in the unlikely case of “inheriting” a computer full of software, there would definitely be at least a couple of license violations, because many products are licensed to a user, not a computer. By the way, I would check the particular software used in creation of the PDF documents — its license agreement in particular. It would be a lot of fun to find out that the prominent “anti-piracy” law firm uses illegally obtained software. Moreover, the opposition’s attempt to discredit the accusation in Steele’s misappropriation of others’ identities is flushed down the toilet by Wasinger’s motion (see below).

    Also, the skeletons of Mr. Syfert’s self-help forms were unearthed and dusted. Graham’s “personal alimony” towards an undeniably evil man is presented as a basis for a “bad faith purpose.” Any reasonable person, after spending an hour researching, would agree that Mr. Syfert should be commended for his work, targeted to stop the brazen abuse of the judicial system by Prenda and other scam artists; the abuse that gives bad names to all the attorneys, including those employed by Kynes, Markman & Felman.

    Read the opposition and make your own conclusions. I only want to note that the entire document would look plausible if not for this blog’s readers’ extensive knowledge of Prenda/Steele’s shenanigans that are overwhelmingly documented in many places. As I wrote to Katherine Yanes yesterday, this is not a usual case with a handful of spectators: thousands are watching, and every spectator has a much better knowledge of Prenda’s history than the law firm it hired. With this knowledge, this document is just a nice fiction story, an amusing read, nothing more. I’m sure that, due to her long professional career, Judge Scriven is capable of telling made-up stories from real ones.

    Don’t miss the exhibits — a full-blown assault on Graham Syfert by Prenda crooks (in addition to outright lies).

    Apparently, Graham is Prenda’s mega-enemy, and it is not a surprise that so much effort is being put in discrediting him. Messing with a Mafioso racket bears its costs.

     

    2

    On the same day another document (embedded below) was filed: Matthew Wasinger’s Urgent renewed motion for withdrawal as a local counsel for Prenda. This document contains pretty damning accusations. Read and pay attention to yet another confirmation of Prenda’s abuse practice: how using others’ identity is not a big deal. Note that the super-scandal “Coopergate” was not brought to the attention of the judge, but if an outside law firm continues to defend indefensible, I’m sure that this scandal will surface in her courtroom.

    As a reader Sausages nicely put it,

    #11 & #12 explains why they retained third part representation — they (Steele) tried to once again write a motion and strongarm Mr. Wasinger into signing it with his electronic signature without seeking permission.

    Pretty funny you have all these wordy lengthy oppositions filed by the third party saying how all this is a sham and Syfert is an extortionist, then the local guy they hired (who I really feel for now and is trying to back out of it to not ruin his career) drops this kind of bomb saying they tried to commit fraud once again and incidentally backs up Mr. Syfert’s assertion that Prenda often submits documents with other peoples signatures without permission (which the opposition motion filed by the third party lawfirm tries to discredit).

    Comedy!


    Don’t miss the exhibits: A and B (email correspondence). A lot of crookery to scrutinize.

    I know another attorney whose identity was misappropriated by Steele, but that attorney decided to wash his hands and put this issue behind him. While I respect his decision, Mr. Wasinger’s courage in defending his dignity, while he is facing legal and other threats, is much-much more admirable.

    Followups
    By Raul

    Previous coverage on Sunlust Pictures, LLC v. Nguyen (FLMD 12-cv-01685):

     

    Matthew Wasinger, feeling deceived by Prenda, is willing to answer questions

    On 12/6 Prenda’s Florida local to-be counsel Matthew Wasinger filed his response to Syfert’s motion for sanctions against him in which he states:

    The undersigned is willing to answer the questions set forth by Mr. Syfert in his Motion upon Order by the Court and a finding of this Court that answers to these questions would not violate any potential ethical duty to Sunlust Pictures. The undersigned would truthfully answer any questions as directed by the Court under oath.

    …it is now blatantly clear that I was mislead by Prenda Law regarding the overall handling of this case.

    …the undersigned has significant concerns of the operation of Prenda Law that prevent the undersigned from continuing to represent the SUNLUST PICTURES, LLC in good faith, and as a result require him to withdraw in accordance with Rule 4-1.16(a) of the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct.

     

    Defendant asks for around $10,000 in attorney fees

    Also on 12/6 Syfert filed a motion for attorneys fees, which totals approximately $10,000 including costs, and where he points out that:

    After filing and before service, the Defendant in this action voluntarily offered up his computer for inspection by agents of the Plaintiff and claimed innocence and a lack of knowledge. Despite the volunteering and cooperation and claim of innocence, the Plaintiff through its agents continued the case were unwilling to address actual issues of liability, and instead intended to proceed solely on the tenuous action of negligence. The further bad faith at the hearing, by presenting a corporate representative without any authority, showed an objective frivolousness by continuing the litigation despite any reasonable offers of cooperation or settlement.

    Syfert also points out the charade of Steele’s “non-involvement” in the affairs of Prenda:

    Counsel for Defendant filed two bar complaints against Mr. Steele for his involvement with Prenda Law, and he has consistently denied involvement with Prenda Law while he is within the State of Florida. While he is in Illinois or safely behind a telephone extension in Miami, he has embraced his involvement with Prenda Law and made multiple appearances on their behalf in the Northern District of Illinois. If challenged, Defendant can produce the affidavits various federal practice attorneys throughout the United States who have tried speaking with Paul Duffy at Prenda Law, and have only been able to speak with John Steele.

    Syfert goes on to warn the court that:

    Despite the objection of many attorneys, the Court within the Northern, Middle and Southern Districts have liberally granted early discovery to a Plaintiff alleging harm through the infringement that can occur in bittorrent swarm. Given their potential liability, limited damages, Sunlust and their counsel should be more wary of the consequences of attempting to violate the public confidence by pursuing massive amounts of claims. Plaintiff should further be deterred from advancing fraud upon the court in the furtherance of their claims.

    Judge is angry; case dismissed

    And finally, the official Judge Scriven’s order dismissing the case:

    Before the hearing, Paul Duffy sent a letter to the Court claiming he was the sole principal of Prenda Law and that the Court’s directive that a principal of the firm appear was, therefore, directed at him. […] He also questioned how he would be of any assistance to the Court since he was in no way affiliated with this matter and did not represent anyone in the case. […] However both Mr. Torres and Mr. Wasinger stated that Prenda Law was in fact involved in this case, albeit through another individual, Brett Gibbs, who resides in California…

    Further, the Court finds that Plaintiff itself failed to comply with this Court’s Order and attempted to deceive this Court when it sent Mr. Lutz, who had no knowledge of the company and had no authority to speak on behalf of the company, to pose as its “corporate representative.” Finally, the Court finds that Prenda Law, the law firm both counsel stated retained them to serve as local counsel on behalf of Plaintiff, misrepresented its role in the case and relationship to the Plaintiff.

    The beauty of this situation is that Prenda/Steele have painted themselves into a corner in that they cannot oppose either the motion for sanctions or attorneys fees without risking another hearing before Judge Scriven.

    Followups
    Last Thursday I wrote a post about how sloppiness, unprofessionalism and outright lies resulted in the dismissal of one of the Prenda’s individual trolling cases, Sunlust Pictures LLC, v. Nguyen, (12-cv-01685) was dismissed by Judge Mary Scriven with fireworks (emphasis is mine):

    The case is dismissed for failure to appear at this hearing, for failure to present a lawful agent, for attempted fraud on the Court by offering up a person who has no authority to act on behalf of the corporation as its corporate representative, and the Court will hear, by motion, a motion for sanctions and fees against this Sunlust entity and everyone affiliated with it, including a motion against Mr. Wasinger for his purposeful failure to appear at this hearing.

    As a logical next step to this dismissal, Graham Syfert filed two motions on 12/4:

     

    Motion for sanctions against attorney Matthew Wasinger

    The goal of this motion is explained clearly:

    Defendant would rather see the abusive and deceitful patterns of Prenda Law terminated than be awarded monetary sanctions.

    To achieve this, Graham suggests compelling Mr. Wasinger to answer specific questions in a hope that

    […] the responses serve as a warning to other potential “local counsel” representatives of Prenda Law to caution themselves in representing Plaintiffs in Federal Court without a reasonable disclosure of the facts surrounding the cases that they are accepting and ability to adequately protect the interest of their clients.

    Specifically, the Defendant would like the court compel, under oath the answers to the following questions:

    1. Have you ever had an in person or over the phone conversation with Sunny Leone or Daniel Weber?
    2. Did you ever try to contact the principals of Sunlust through Prenda Law, and if so, what did those agents tell you about communicating with your client?
    3. Have you ever spoken to or exhcnaged e-mailed with John Steele?
    4. Have you ever spoken to or exchanged e-mails with Paul Duffy?
    5. What percentage of recovery was promised to you for an award in this case, and what percentage was to be paid to Prenda Law?
    6. How much was to be paid to the client?
    7. When you received a check for your fee in settling a Prenda Law case, who was it signed by?
    8. What address and business name or personal name is/was on that check?
    9. What is the name of the account on that check (i.e. Prenda Law Operations, Prenda Law Trust, Paul Duffy Trust, Steele Law Firm Trust, etc.) and what institution was it drawn on?
    10. Were your actions in the Nguyen case at any time directed by any another person than Brett Gibbs (including Joseph Perea, Paul Duffy, John Steele, Mark Lutz, or any other person)?
    11. Who composed the original drafts of the materials filed in the Nguyen case while you were counsel?
    12. Did you ever ask to see the evidence which supposedly shows copyright infringement and have you seen that evidence?
    13. Have you ever talked to anyone with the last name Hansmeier concerning Prenda Law cases?
    14. Explain the circumstances around how you came to be hired by Prenda Law, whether you responded to one of their ads or how they responded to one of your ads, including the exact date that you were hired, and who did the hiring.

     

     

    Omnibus motion for sanctions against Prenda, Paul Duffy, Brett Gibbs, and John Steele

    This motion begins with a thorough proof that Paul Duffy is a decoy, a fake Prenda’s principal. If you read this blog regularly, you couldn’t miss the fact that I repeat this statement over and over again. The very first time I mentioned Duffy about a year ago, I did use the word “decoy”; and just a week ago I wrote:

    …it is a common belief that Paul Duffy is a no one, a nominal president of Prenda, a patsy, that he does not write motions, does not argue in courtrooms, does not reply to emails.

    One of Syfert’s argument is really funny, (palmface-funny, not laughter-funny): analyzing the document, purportedly written by Paul Duffy to the court (the one mentioned during the hearing), Graham made an interesting discovery:

    A quick and dirty forensic examination of the PDF document, as sent by email by “Angela Van Hammel” of Prenda Law, reports that the PDF document was created by a computer user by the name of Kerry Eckenrode (the maiden name of John Steele’s wife) and was created by “Steele Law Firm.” Exhibit “C” attached gives the simple properties of this document and evidences that it was created on 11/20/2012 even though it is dated the 11/18/2012. It is possible that John Steele created the letter at the request of Paul Duffy, but it is unlikely that it was ever presented to Mr. Duffy for his approval, as he would know of his representation in the Sunlust matters.

    Next, Syfert explains why everyone listed in the motion’s title should be disciplined. It does not make much sense to summarize the remainder of the document: the motion is quite concise and easy to read.

     

    Media coverage
    Followups

    On Tuesday, November 27, 2012 one of Prenda’s individual trolling cases, Sunlust Pictures LLC, v. Nguyen, (12-cv-01685) was dismissed by Judge Mary Scriven with fireworks (emphasis is mine):

    Judge Mary Scriven
    Federal Judge Mary Scriven

    The case is dismissed for failure to appear at this hearing, for failure to present a lawful agent, for attempted fraud on the Court by offering up a person who has no authority to act on behalf of the corporation as its corporate representative, and the Court will hear, by motion, a motion for sanctions and fees against this Sunlust entity and everyone affiliated with it, including a motion against Mr. Wasinger for his purposeful failure to appear at this hearing.

    And a motion will also be heard on Mr. Duffy for his lack of candor in relation to his connection with this matter based upon the representation of Mr. Torres that he was contacted by the Prenda Law Group or Prenda Law, Inc. for the purpose of being retained as local counsel in this case and that was not presented to the Court in this purportedcorrespondence. The case is dismissed.

    I intend to advise the other Judges in the Courthouse of the nature of this matter and may refer this matter to the Florida Bar for further proceedings.

    What preceded this ruling is an unreal, Kafkaesque hearing, that I offer for your enjoyment below. I read this transcript in a gym on a treadmill a couple of hours ago collecting strange looks from the gymgoers: my uncontrollable giggles and gasps were probably too loud.

    THE COURT: Mr. Lutz, who is the individual who you just spoke to in the Courtroom with you?
    MR. LUTZ: Sorry?
    THE COURT: Who is that behind you?
    MR. STEELE: Your Honor, my name is John Steele.
    THE COURT: Who are you?
    MR. STEELE: I’m an attorney, but not involved in this case.
    THE COURT: You’re an attorney with what law firm?
    MR. STEELE: I’m not an attorney with any law firm right now […]

    During the entire hearing, the judge’s attempted to understand who was who in this comedy with everthickening plot. Despite that it was apparently the only actual agenda, I am not sure that the judge succeeded in figuring that out. The only thing that she seemingly got right is that she dealt with a bunch of fraudsters, and very sloppy ones. I hope that she will carry out her intentions to alert other judges and to ask the Florida Bar to conduct yet another investigation.

    Although both this hearing and the resulted dismissal were based on procedural questions, if you want to learn about the merits (or the lack thereof, to be more precise) of this case, read an excellent motion to dismiss written by the defense counsel Graham Syfert.

    Please set sharp things aside, do not eat and drink, and sit firmly and comfortably, so you cannot fall and injure yourself. Laughs are guaranteed (not for Steele though: I am sure that some unpleasant phone conversations ruined his evening).

    After you wipe off your tears and your hiccups subside, I will have a question for you. I am waiting.

    Ready?

    Girls and boys, ladies and gentleman, senior citizens!

    Do you understand that the clowns that appeared in this comedy are the very same people that manage to terrorize tens of thousands and to induce fear so irrational, that many, prior to understanding what’s going on, reach out their checkbooks and write four-figure amounts on the checks? How can it possibly happen?
    Appendix. Prenda and Florida: a love story

    Many 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 know. This fact is: Prenda has tried and failed to secure nine local counsels in Florida:

    • Joanne Diez: filed one case, it is not implausible that her name was used without her consent.
    • R.B.: the guy I don’t want to name, because John Steele has committed an identity theft and used his letterhead /email without his permission.
    • Joseph Perea: was an integral part of Prenda, officially left it, although continues trolling, investigated by the Florida Bar (initiated by multiple parties).
    • George Banas: resigned.
    • Maurice Castellanos: resigned.
    • Matthew Wasinger: resigned.
    • Jonathan Torres: resigned.
    • Alan Greenstein: a current counsel, but for how long will he hold the ground? :)

    Every time a new guy understood that the newly acquired stink he couldn’t get rid of is exuded by Prenda Law, he ran away as quickly as possible. Even 75% contingency fee cannot persuade local lawyers to stain their future careers by associating themselves with a lawfirm that is actively investigated by the Florida Bar Association, and is expected to be investigated criminally in the nearest future.

    Media coverage
    Followups
    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.