Posts Tagged ‘LiveWire Holdings’

In a recent appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Paul Duffy wrote:

Prenda Law is currently winding down its operations and is in the process of dismissing its remaining cases pursuant to the instructions of its clients [sic]. In some instances, the requests for dismissals are being opposed, resulting in delays and ongoing law and motion proceedings that have precluded Prenda Law from completely ceasing its operations.

Fortunately, everyone, including judges (well, except some either lazy or gullible ones), takes these words with a grain pound of salt. Whom do you want to deceive, Paul/John/Paul? Bullshitting a Court of Appeals is a very good idea. Go on, we are ready for an illustrious show.

So, while a San Diego law firm Klinedist has been doing its best to avoid unavoidable — a total destruction of SS Prenda — in a joke of a court that is located in St. Clair County IL, a brand new shake-down campaign is underway. Unbelievable chutzpah. In this judicial stinking hole, where even the chief judge is seemingly in bed with Prenda (Judge Baricevic signed a carte blanche “agreed order,” the document that no self-respecting judge would even consider signing), a new lawsuit/petition was filed on April 15: Peg Leg Productions v. Charter Communications. Who are the signers? Paul Duffy and Kevin Hoerner. Of course.

 

I don’t want even try to go into this garbage petition’s details, it is too obvious what’s going on here.

So, what the hell is “Peg Leg Productions”? A painfully familiar name offends our sight once again:

 

Let’s reiterate the dates (I’ll omit many secondary events: refer to a titanic job by John Henry, who organized all the events in a nice timeline):

  • April 2: Prenda principals plead the Fifth declining to answer questions about the bogus corporations and their roles in those corporations.
  • April 15: A new lawsuit/petition Peg Leg Productions v. Charter was conceived in a scandal-rigged St. Clair County court.
  • May 6: Fleet Admiral Judge Otis Wright slammed his massive hammer on the Prenda player’s heads.
  • May 28: An entity that managed to file a lawsuit 1.5 months earlier was finally created: Lutz & [unborn] Sons as a CEO.
  • June 14: In an “emergency” motion, ostensibly Paul Duffy stated that “Prenda is winding down its operations.” And please, John Steele, don’t insult judges’ intelligence once again, bullshitting that Lutz’s funny businesses are independent from Prenda; that you, Hansmeier, Prenda, and Lutz have nothing to do with each other.

 

I must give a credit to some sense of humor our crooks have shown: referring to a stereotypical pirate attribute is funny, and at the same time is an unambiguous hint to who is the actual pirate.

 

Update

6/17/2013

Today Morgan Pietz filed his response to Prenda’s “emergency” appeal that incorporates the same findings that are the subject of this post. I’m happy to note that Morgan came to the same conclusions: he illustrated that despite Duffy’s claims (made under oath), the stubborn facts do not corroborate those claims.

Many remember that less than 3 years ago an infamous scumbag Steve “Lightspeed” Jones, a pornographer who specializes in “barely legal” genre (i.e. he recruits and films very young girls), articulated the “troll credo” that would become a modus operandi of the sleaziest porno extortionists:

People aren’t embarrassed when their neighbors find out they downloaded a few songs, but illegally trading midget, tranny, facials, and teen porn content? There is some news worth keeping from the wife, kids, parents, and neighbors.

Please feel free to continue to compare this to the RIAA…

Steve Lightspeed

(He said this in the context of hiring John Steele.)

I heard stories about troll harassers/collectors (not only Prenda’s, but Lipscomb’s, for example) threatening to tell relatives, neighbors, and colleagues that the victim is being sued in connection to an illegal download of pornography. Along these lines, Lipscomb’s collectors inflicted more harm upon citizenry than anyone else — see Fantalis’s story.


Paul Duffy: “Pleaded Fifth? So what?!”
(Click to enlarge)

Yet I never saw these threats explicitly written in a demand letter — until yesterday. No one else but Prenda came up with a new sleaze at the time when the entire gang, including the ethically handicapped attorney who signed it (Paul Duffy), pleaded the Fifth and was referred to the authorities for criminal investigation (as a matter of fact, Duffy pleaded the Fifth twice). Last week people started receiving new letters, this time not from involuntarily dissolved Duffy Law Group (like in April), not from fake/shell corporations, but from the “Anti-Piracy Law Group,” the latest Prenda reincarnation. An explicit threat to call one’s neighbors was added to this masterpiece of douchebaggery (emphasis is mine):

[…] The purpose of this step is to gather evidence about who used your Internet account to steal from our client [sjd: never mind that this case is about hacking, not copyright infringement]. The list of possible suspects includes you, members of your household, your neighbors (if you maintain an open wi-fi connection) and anyone who might have visited your house. In the coming days we will contact these individuals to investigate whether they have any knowledge of the acts described in my client’s prior letter. […]

Anything goes if it helps to scare an uninformed extortion target:

[…] Internet is full of stories of people being brought to court by our firm, incurring significant legal fees and suffering large judgments […]

I don’t know what part of their bodies these guys use for thinking: to see what kind of stories people will find, try to google “Anti-Piracy Law Group,” or visit antipiracylawgroup.com (copy and paste to make sure that this is real).

 

If I was not a relatively modest kind, I would tell you what to do with such letter. But you know it without me if you spend an hour surfing the “Internet full of stories.”

By the way: the lopsided second page is not a result of faulty scanning. This is exactly how the original printed letter looks like. Also, we probably have a new definition of “Chutzpah,” since the letters are dated 5/7/2013 — the very next day after Judge Wright’s smackdown.

Good news

I want to finish on a lighter note.

I hope that everyone is familiar with Friday’s surprise interview that John Steele gave to ArsTechnica. It does not make sense to discuss the things this narcissistic megalomaniac said on the record. I keep wondering if this pretentious paltry creature understands the extent of the damage he inflicts upon himself and his buddies when he opens his mendacious mouth in public. Funny enough, Jason Sweet used Steele’s words from this interview to argue against Prenda in the evening of the exact same Friday!

While the entire interview is good news overall, there is more to it: while John struggles with mastering a delicate art of shutting-the-fuck-up, some people are doing their job in silence. And some of them visit this site in the line of their duty:

 

I like it. I like it a lot.

Media coverage

If the last Prenda hearing was a tornado, this one was an earthquake.
Abrupt, powerful, and leaving unclear casualties.

Adam Steinbaugh

 

Basically, the title says it all. I was not there (looking back — fortunately: the travel would be too expensive given the length of the show). I could filter the bits of information from the Twitter feed, but it does not make much sense: Ken White‘s analysis is by far the most read-worthy:

However well grounded in the individual rights of Steele, Hansmeier, and Duffy, the invocation eviscerates their credibility as lawyers and the credibility of Prenda Law as an enterprise in every court across the country. I expect that defense attorneys will file notice of if in every state and federal case Prenda Law has brought, through whatever guise or cutout. The message will be stark: the attorneys directing this litigation just took the Fifth rather than answer another judge’s questions about their conduct in this litigation campaign. I expect federal and state judges across the country will take notice and begin their own inquiries.

The consequences for the individuals behind Prenda Law may arrive slowly — particularly by the standards of Twitter and anxious blogs. But they will come — and they may come from many directions at once.

Prenda Law may still be standing. But it’s dead.

I want to make sure that one particular tidbit is not lost: according to an earlier Dark Moe’s tweet, “IRS Agent from L.A. Anti-Money Laundering Unit will be in the audience.”

As in the case of the previous hearing, I’ll try to collect links to all the stories about this short, but “an extinction-level event for Prenda.” Needless to say, this post will be updated as I become aware of new coverage.

Transcript
Featured comment by a witness

Anonymous wrote:

Well there wasn’t really enough drama to do a full narrative writeup. Popehat and Ars have it covered, and Ken’s background provides more insight than I can given there were no new revelations.

But there are a few things I thought were interesting that I don’t think were highlighted in the other coverage:

Steele now has his own attorneys.
Paul Hansmeier has his own attorneys.
Duffy, Van Den Hemel, and Prenda are still represented by Rosing.

Peter Hansmeier and Lutz did not have representation.

Hansmeier and Steele were sitting next to each other and chatting, so they still appear to be buddies.

Duffy entered separately, looked beet red.

Peter Hansmeier looked like he was about to cry at one point.

Paul Hansmeier looks like he has been eating all the settlement money, or maybe he is a stress eater and the last month or so has been particularly rough.

Lutz looks much older than I expected, maybe 40’s. I assumed from his being such a fool, and the antics like showing up to court in flip-flops, that he would look like a 20-something college dropout. He decided to wear a suit this time and looked like someone I would take seriously if I didn’t know better.

I believe Van Den Hemel entered and sat with Lutz, Steele and the Hansmeiers, but not sure if I caught it all, I didn’t know who she was or that she was there yet.

So it looks like factional lines are being drawn.

Nobody took credit for being Alan Cooper, Wright made a particular point of asking if there was an Alan Cooper; I’m sure this is key to whatever he has in mind.

Gibbs was present but basically ignored, the only acknowledgment of him or his lawyer I recall was when Wright thanked Waxler for successfully serving the rest.

Pietz and Ranallo were present and armed to the teeth with boxes of stuff, but I think they only spoke to identify themselves when the hearing began.

Except for Rosing, who seemed like she is at least trying to do her job and put up some fight, the other guys’ attorneys got steamrolled by Wright, they barely even tried. They literally ended up hunched over the table, arms splayed out, mouths hanging open looking like “WTF is happening to us?’

I wanted to get pics of the crew, especially Lutz since he has been the Prenda Mystery Man, but no electronics in the courtroom and they didn’t leave with the crowd, probably slithered out the side doors long after everyone else left.

I will also predict that, with Prenda simply pleading the 5th regarding everything they do, the defamation suit counterclaims will be disastrous for them. Not sure what they can do at this point if they simply won’t answer questions or produce discovery, but at the rate they are going they may be forced to let them go to default judgements.

By the same token, it seems like anyone involved in a Prenda case that hasn’t been dismissed yet has a golden opportunity. Get a counterclaim in, and if they are are simply unwilling to speak about any of their cases, how will they defend it?

A bit anticlimactic, a lot less theater than last time, but it looks like they are seriously screwed.

Featured cartoon

JohnGenryLawyer created a splendid cartoon relevant to the theme of this post. To those who started following Prenda cases only recently: text on the left is from the April 2 hearing transcript, which is embedded above; text on the right is from another famous transcript — of the hearing that took place in Judge Scriven’s courtroom in Tampa in November.

Media coverage
Saying that judges rarely use words “incarceration,” “fraud,” “automatic bench warrant” in an order to show cause would be an understatement. Nonetheless, Judge Otis Wright did just that in Ingenuity v. Jon Doe (CACD 12-cv-08333). Tired of apparent Prenda Law’s fraudulent activities, he ordered its counsel Brett Gibbs to explain his and his law firm’s behavior at a hearing set for March 11. Additionally, he allowed parties (Brett Gibbs and Morgan Pietz) to file briefs before February 19. A deposition of Prenda by Morgan Pietz was set to proceed on the same date.

Brett Gibbs tries to play a pity card, points finger at “Prenda senior people”

Copyright troll Brett Gibbs

A couple of hours before the deadline, Brett Gibbs filed his declaration through a newly hired law firm Waxler Carner Brodsky LLP, which has been “primarily defending lawyers in malpractice actions.” Although it was a relatively wise move (akin to an old lawyer’s saying that “a lawyer who represents himself in a court has a fool for a client”), the result was a pile of horse manure that does not pass a common sense scrutiny. The funny thing is that this spectacular failure does not characterize Gibbs’s defenders, it’s just too much lying to explain: no star attorney is capable of coming up with a credible story painting Gibbs an innocent kid deceived by evil grown-ups.

Regardless, the main huge news is that Brett has given up his stubborn loyalty and has started pointing his finger at Prenda’s “senior members” (Paul Hansmeier and John Steele):

I am and have never had an ownership interest in the copyrights involved in the Copyright Litigations. As discussed in greater detail below, I did not make strategic decisions like whether to file actions, who to sue, and whether to make a certain settlement demand or accept an offer of settlement in the Copyright Litigations. These types of decisions were made by the clients, after consulting with senior members of the law firms that employed me in an “of counsel” relationship.
[…]

I have never had a financial or fiduciary (i.e., ownership) interest in AF Holdings. AF Holdings was a client of S&H and then Prenda. The face-to-face and direct interactions between S&H and later Prenda with AF Holdings were handled by the senior members of the law firms and not me.
[…]

I have never met Alan Cooper, and do not know what the extent of Mr. Cooper’s role is in AF Holdings aside from seeing a signature from an “Alan Cooper” on the copyright assignments and pleadings.
[…]

I first became aware of a question regarding the identity of Alan Cooper when it was raised by Mr. Pietz.
[…]

I confirmed the existence of the client-executed verification either by seeing a copy of the signed verification, or at the very least, being informed by a representative of S&H or Prenda that a signed verification was in the possession of S & H or Prenda.

The explanation of the reason how Alan Copper’s fraudulent signature was verified by Gibbs and why he failed to present the original is simply stunning. Sure, it is a credible and sufficient reasoning that will clear Mr. Brett’s name so he will avoid sanctions:

In Case No. 84, Mr. Pietz first asked for a copy of Mr. Cooper’s verification to the petition to perpetuate testimony on or about December 2012, well after the petition had been discharged. Given the length of time since the case was discharged, I was informed and understand that S&H (and later Prenda) no longer has a copy of Mr. Cooper’s verification to the petition to perpetuate testimony.

Just a week earlier Steele and Hansmeier decided to delegate Gibbs’s responsibilities to Michael Dugas. After two and half years of collaboration, they have thrown Brett under the bus, so no surprise that his loyalty has evaporated quickly.

I’ll leave it to a reader to go through unconvincing excuses, which are not as entertaining as those that another troll’s mob mastermind, Keith Lipscomb, poured on Judge Baylson last fall.

 


Click to enlarge

[2/21/2013 update] It is not remotely funny anymore that Brett (to whom we already gave an honorable nickname “Pinocchio”) is lying without even thinking about the possibility of anyone doing some basic fact checking. Here is an example (thanks to a commenter for noticing):

From Gibbs’s declaration:

31. In addition, in order to rule out neighbors of the 1411 Paseo Jacaranda, Santa Maria, California 93458 location utilizing the internet connection, I performed a Google map search and obtained a satellite picture of the corner house located at 1411 Paseo Jacaranda, Santa Maria, California 93458. A further public search revealed that the house was approximately 1,200 sq. ft. which sat on a 6,534 sq. ft. lot. Considering the position of the house on the lot, and its position away from the neighboring houses, it seemed clear that, should the household have wireless internet, it would not have been accessible by the neighbors.

Alright. A typical wireless range is from 50 to 100 m. Look at the map: green circle’s radius is 50 m, and yellow — 100 m. So we are talking about 10-30 households capable of utilizing the wireless connection in question.

Can’t help noticing another funny argument in Gibbs’s declaration:

[…] the inconsistency did not prevent a prima facie showing of copyright ownership because the law only requires the assignment to he signed by the assignor. Given the court’s finding that the copyright assignment in Case No. 3335 was prima facie valid despite an issue regarding whether the assignee had properly executed the assignment. I had and have a good faith belief that the assignments in Case No. 6636 and 6669 are valid despite any alleged issue regarding the identity of Alan Cooper.

Or, as scruuball translated it to Twitter’s 140,

It doesn’t matter that we forged a signature, because we didn’t need it in the first place! Hah!

To our surprise, there is a certificate of AF Holdings’ incorporation, but the quality of the copy is poor, and I’m afraid that given St. Kitts’ secrecy laws, there is no way to validate that it is authentic. Even if it is real, this does not negate the fact that AF Holdings is a shell entity “owned” by Prenda. Note that nothing of this kind was presented for another fraudulent entity, Ingenuity 13.

The fact that Brett Gibbs has lawyered up has more significance: it will be easier for him to cut a deal with an Attorney General and (relatively) save his ass while allowing putting the major culprits behind the bars.

Morgan Pietz replies to Judge Wright’s OSC. One word: “Wow”

Defendant’s attorney Morgan Pietz had just an hour to review Gibbs’s weaselspeak. Admittedly, Morgan wrote the bulk of his response in advance, but still he managed to add thorough debunking of Gibbs’s whining. It’s impossible to pull pieces from this document, it is a must read from the first line to the last. It has is all: a long history of Prenda’s crookery, calling out lies and contradictions in Gibbs’s declaration, examples of more identity theft, damning revelations during the deposition of Paul Hansmeier (who, like a “boss” in an action computer game, appeared in the last episode).

I only want to quote the beautiful conclusion (links supplied):

The conduct of Prenda and its “of counsel” Mr. Gibbs in these cases undermines the integrity of the courts and the public’s confidence in the justice system. Here, Prenda has shown is that it is willing to do just about anything to obtain grist for its national “settlement” mill. Repeatedly, in hundreds of actions filed in courts across the country, Prenda has resorted to misrepresentations, halftruths, and questionable tactics, if not outright fraud, forgery, and identity theft. Until now, Prenda has gotten away with quite a lot of these kinds of tactics because it simply abandons its lawsuits, via a voluntary dismissal, after obtaining subpoena returns, and some settlements. Indeed, as noted above, Mr. Gibbs is already at it again, now sending out demand letters on behalf of Guava, LLC, which is now purportedly owned by Livewire Holdings, LLC not a mystery trust. Exactly who is responsible for the worst of Prenda’s actions here may not yet be clear, but this is the archetypical type of case, where there is a pattern of bad action that is done in such a way to avoid scrutiny, where a major sanctions is appropriate as a deterrent. This Court is urged not to go easy on Mr. Gibbs or Prenda Law.

 

Many paragraphs in this brief deserve separate posts, and sure we will continue shedding the light on Prenda and its epic downfall until the fraudsters cease their criminal activity and are severely punished.

Followup
Media coverage
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.