Posts Tagged ‘Michael Dugas’

Edward Toussaint,
Judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals

When it rains, it pours. As if the last week total Prenda smackdown by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals was not enough, today Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed more than $63K in attorney fees and costs in an infamous collusive Guava v. Merkel (Hennepin County District Court, 27-CV-12-20976).

The opinion is harsh and a must read. I only want to note one heartwarming detail:

In the complaint that initiated this litigation, plaintiff-appellant Guava LLC is described as “a limited liability company that owns and operates protected computer systems . . . accessible throughout Minnesota.” It is unclear, however, whether Guava even exists. Despite repeated inquiries by the district court, the record includes no evidence regarding Guava’s incorporation, the identity of its principals, or the nature of its business operations.

So, after two years, during which we have been constantly questioning the existence of multiple Prenda’s empty shells (Guava, Arte de Oaxaca, LW Holdings etc.), finally courts started to realize that they were impudently defrauded.

Still waiting for the criminal law hammer to drop on the Prenda collective head. It’s a matter of when, not if though.


Hansmeier is continuing to dig his hole deeper: more questionable lawsuits

In the meantime, Hansmeier continues to extort small businesses using ADA lawsuits: two new cases have been filed


[8/8/2014 update — thanks to a commenter for a tip]
There are also less transparent state cases (search for “HANSMEIER PAUL”).

  • 27-CV-14-2417: Eric Wong vs Chatterbox Enterprises Inc, Tyrone Sharpe;
  • 27-CV-14-11721: Eric Wong vs Sawatdee Inc, Cynthia D Harrison, Jennifer T Harrison-Reilly, Supenn Harrison d/b/a Tippaya Partnership;
  • 27-CV-14-12087: Eric Wong vs Gargar Clinic & Urgent Care LLC, Argo Enterprises LLC;
  • 27-CV-14-13308: Eric Wong vs St. Paulette’s Inc (Small Bakery).


Some people simply cannot earn money honestly. All recent Hansmeier’s parasitic endeavors (copyright trolling, class action objections, ADA lawsuits) were all based on the only skill Paul has mastered: using his law education to rob hardworking citizens — those who actually contribute to the society.

Media coverage

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

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.

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.

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:


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).



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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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



Media Coverage

Below is the transcript of the hearing:

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Christmas is around the corner!
A book has been traditionally
one of the best gifts of all times.
You know the Prenda’s address.

The sound of Friday’s double-barrel shot in the general direction of the Prenda gang was seemingly too deafening: while the first story (“A hearing transcript or a comedy screenplay? A must-read for those who think about settling”) resonated on the Internet, the second, much, much more damning news (“Copyright troll Prenda Law is accused of using a stolen identity for their offshore plaintiffs”) was not eagerly picked up by the news outlets yet. Indeed, the accusation of such rank is not easy to digest; extraordinary claims require extraordinary fact-checking, and I believe that this news is far from being ignored: it is rather the lull before the storm, and soon we will hear a lot about what we think is the beginning of Prenda’s end.

[Update 12/5/2012: ArsTechnica was the first big news outlet who published this story: Man charges porn trolling firm Prenda Law with identity theft (Says firm listed him as the CEO of a shell corporation without permission.) Check the Media Coverage and Updates sections of my original post: I will post new information as it becomes available.]


In the meantime, attorney Morgan Pietz, who essentially orchestrated the funeral of Malibu Media’s extortion business in Central California, turned his attention to Prenda and filed a Notice of Related Cases, noting that both Prenda’s offshore “righthavens” — “AF Holdings, LLC” and “Ingenuity 13” — failed to file notices, which are required when a plaintiff files similar cases in the Central California Federal District (Local Rule 83-7 and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c)(1)). Malibu Media’s local Shakedown Envoy Leemore Kushner failed to do just that, and, as a result, all her 30+ cases are history now. Morgan’s website has the entire story.

If I had a frivolity of comparing my two Friday news stories to a double-barrel shot, it will be fair to compare Morgan Pietz to a sniper: his words are unexpected, effective, and rarely miss the target:

Plaintiffs AF Holdings, LLC and Ingenuity 13, LLC are both shell entities organized under the laws of the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis. Both entities have filed a tsunami of John Doe pornographic copyright infringement actions in United States District Courts, including 49 total cases currently pending in this judicial district. Both entities are represented by the same plaintiffs law firm: Prenda Law, Inc. (f/k/a Steele Hansemeier PLLC). Both entities have filed substantially identical cookie cutter complaints and ex parte applications seeking leave of Court to issue subpoenas to ISPs prior to a Rule 26(f) conference. In support of their applications for early discovery, both entities have offered a declaration from “Peter Hansemeier” who purports to be a computer expert. Generally speaking, the pleadings in all the AF Holdings cases and Ingenuity 13 cases in this district track paragraph by paragraph, word for word. The only real difference between the two groups of cases appears to be the particular pornographic works at issue and, of course, the varying IP addresses identified in the complaints.

Like in the Malibu Media’s case, Prenda’s failure to file the required notices indicates impudent forum shopping. Mr. Pietz explains this clearly, but in addition, he does not hesitate to go further, much further, and, based on the last week Minnesota events, continues hammering the Prenda gang, asking very uncomfortable questions:

Common Issues of Law and Fact Between the Related Cases:

  1. Is There a Widespread Fraud With Respect to the Use of the Identity of One Mr. Alan Cooper by AF Holdings and Ingenuity 13;
  2. Do These Entities Have Proper Standing;
  3. Are John Steele and/or Prenda Law the Undisclosed, Real Parties in Interest in These Cases;
  4. Do These Cases Involve Improper Fee Splitting?

Here is the entire Notice embedded for your convenience. Visit Morgan Pietz’s page dedicated to Prenda’s offshore businesses for more information, including exhibits.


By the way, yours truly is mentioned in footnote 6, which talks about inappropriate fee splitting between troll lawyers and rights holders. Thank you, Morgan: it is always flattering to see my humble efforts contribute to the inevitable end of one of the most shameful chapters in the US judicial history.

Raul adds an important nuance that I missed:

Love the post, one thing that the Notice of Relate Cases makes clear (p. 7) is that Duffy wants nothing to do with this AF Holdings/Ingenuity 13 BS and Steele is holding the bag for this possible gigantic fraud (emphasis is mine):

Immediately after Mr. Cooper’s lawyer filed a notice of appearance on his behalf in one of the Minnesota cases, John Steele attempted to call the Minnesota Mr. Cooper directly, multiple times, notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Cooper was represented by counsel. Appendix 1, p. 2. Since then, Prenda Law’s principal Paul Duffy has apparently disavowed Mr. Steele, and directed Mr. Cooper’s attorney that this should be considered solely a matter between Mr. Cooper and John Steele. Appendix 1, p. 2. […]

Do you wonder where Gibbs will land?

  • 1/15/2013: Prenda’s motion to disqualify Judge Otis Write has been denied.
  • Prenda Law has been suing alleged porn pirates for almost two years. Little by little, the name of this law firm became known not only to those who were affected by its predatory practice, but also to a wider public. A narcissist John Steele never ran away from extra publicity, and the peak of his media exposure was a recent Forbes’ article “How Porn Copyright Lawyer John Steele Has Made A ‘Few Million Dollars’ Pursuing (Sometimes Innocent) ‘Porn Pirates’ “ by Kashmir Hill.

    The rather long list of “People Most Hated By The Internet” — that guy who sued the Oatmeal, RIAA, Hunter Moore, Julia Allison, Violentacrez… — would be incomplete were it not to include John Steele. Steele is a lawyer who has partnered with the pornography industry to go after “pirates” who download their XXX films without paying for them. He has filed over 350 of these suits, and says he is currently suing approximately 20,000 people.

    As a shakedown enterprise, Prenda is a complex organization and has many “clients” (I use quotes to emphasize the fact that, unlike a normal legal practice, it were not clients who shopped for legal representation and found Prenda Law, but the other way around: John Steele and others actively “hunted” for porn copyright holders in order to lure them into a lucrative semi-legal and obviously immoral schemes of monetizing copyright infringement of cheap pornography “works”).

    While, just like other troll enterprises, Prenda uses real copyright holders like CP Productions, Sunlust Pictures etc., its masterminds, Paul Hansmeier, and Brett Gibbs were not as lucky as Keith Lipscomb, who has been able to milk Brigham Field and Colette Leah on a massive scale, giving them only a 10% cut of the settlement ransom money and keeping the rest. Prenda’s “real” clients wanted their “fair” (as if anything in in this “business” is fair) share, and infinitely greedy Prenda naturally always looked for ways to avoid sharing its loot.

    First it was MCGIP, a mini-Righthaven, as Nicholas Ranallo, an attorney who defends victims of bittorent shakedown cases, nicely put it. Shortly after Nick’s article was published in TorrentFreak, MCGIP quietly ceased to exist. Although the idea of procuring copyrights for a sole purpose to mass-sue alleged bittorent file-sharers is obviously lucrative, doing it on the US sole right after the Righthaven fiasco was not wise.

    So, our con artists went offshore. Two companies emerged out of the crooked minds of Paul Hansmeier and John Steele: Inguenity 13 and AF Holdings, both registered on St. Kitts and Nevis, a secrecy haven, where even attempting to uncover identities of business owners is a criminal offense.

    Although it was obvious who the real owner of these companies was, it was really hard to proof due to the reasons mentioned above. Yet every criminal makes a fatal mistake in his career. And that mistake was involving the guy named Alan Cooper, a caretaker of John Steele’s inherited property in Minnesota. Steele asked him for some chores here and there, to answer the phone, etc., but little by little the crooks started using his name in official papers — as a manager for both offshore companies — and according to the letter embedded below, since Alan did not give them a permission to do so (and basically was not even aware of their actions), essentially committed an identity theft, lying under oath on multiple occasions, and forging Alan’s electronic signature (see the exhibits).

    When Alan became aware of it, he lawyered up and filed the following letter in at least four of the fraudulent AF Holdings v. Doe cases (12-cv-02687, 12-cv-02688, 12-cv-02689, and 12-cv-01449). Read it. If it is not the beginning of Prenda’s end and does not prompt a massive federal investigation, I don’t know what to say…

    To this date, AF Holdings filed 208 fraudulent copyright cases, Ingenuity 13 — 52.

    “Alan Cooper” is not a rare name, and there is a small chance that another Alan Cooper exists and “serves” as a CEO of those two offshore companies, but given the circumstances, is anyone here willing to bet on it?


    It took only five days for a troll Michael Dugas to react to Alan Cooper’s letter with a two-paragraph statement. Of course, the fraudster denied everything outright (what would you expect, “yes, we’ve been naughty, Your Honor”?):

    I write to respond to the November 29, 2012 letter filed with the Court by Attorney Paul Godfread. In his letter, Attorney Godfread accuses AF Holdings LLC of being a sham corporation and fraudulently holding his client out as its CEO. Both of these accusations are categorically false.

    Attorney Paul Godfread filed an identical letter in a similar case currently pending before the Honorable Judge Joan N. Erickson. In a text entry, the Court indicated it reviewed the letter and “will take no action on [Attorney Godfread’s] request.” Plaintiff respectfully requests that the Court reach similar decision.

    This phrase suggests how bad Mr. Dugas is as an attorney (professionalism is not a quality of the highest priority for running an extortion scam). He should know that Judge Erickson’s statement simply translates to “Godfread has to make a Rule 24 motion to intervene before the court can take an action one way or the other.” Nothing more, nothing less.

    Dugas’s letter ends with unsubstantiated threats towards Mr. Cooper’s attorney Paul Goldfread:

    By way of separate action, Plaintiff will address Attorney Godfread’s egregious behavior.

    …which is funny because Mr. Goldfread is protected by the litigation privilege… but we all know that making unsubstantiated threats is the very core of Prenda’s business, so no surprises here.

    If this is all that the crooks could come up with in their defense in five days, all I hear is a fan’s circular frequency steadily increase in premonition of something hitting the blades very soon.

    One of four cases where Alan Cooper’s “Letter to District Judge” was filed (12-cv-02688), was dismissed with prejudice. Usually such dismissal means settlement, but I’m skeptical in this case. First, it is strange to settle while there is a substantial probability that AF Holdings is a fake company, and the instant case is the instant fraud. Second, while allowing the discovery, Judge Graham established at least one safeguard, which I’m sure Prenda crooks did not cheerfully welcome:

    Within one day of extending any offer to settle to John Doe or having any other contact with John Doe, Plaintiff shall disclose the offer or contact to the Court by filing under seal a copy of (1) any written communication or (2) a transcript of any oral communication. Plaintiff shall also send a courtesy copy of each sealed document to the Court’s chambers.

    Media coverage
  • TechDirt: John Steele’s Property Caretaker Intervenes In Copyright Trolling Case, Alleging Identity Theft by Mike Masnick.
  • Related posts
  • 1/15/2013: Prenda’s motion to disqualify Judge Otis Write has been denied.
  • 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?