Posts Tagged ‘Steele Hansmeier’

If you have been following Theatre of Absurd “Prenda” for a while, you’ll smile, chuckle, giggle, and laugh out loud more than once. Enjoy.

 

 

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
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.

“Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, our lawsuit against you personally will not commence
until we serve you with a Complaint, which we are prepared to do if our settlement efforts fail.”
 
(From Prenda Law’s demand letter)

Recently Northern California district judge Lucy H. Koh commanded copyright troll Brett Gibbs (Prenda Law) to answer certain questions. In particular, she wanted to know

A list of the BitTorrent copyright infringement cases involving multiple joined John Doe Defendants filed Plaintiff’s counsel’s law firm or predecessor firm in federal court. Identify the case by name, case number, court, and filing date. For each case, indicate how many Doe Defendants were actually served.

Well, we know how many defendants were actually served. Nonetheless, it was amusing to hear this answer from a troll, especially observing a long list of cases that MCGIP, Steele Hansmeier and Prenda Law have filed to date (I counted 118):

Although our records indicate that we have filed suits against individual copyright infringement defendants, our records indicate that no defendants have been served in the below-listed cases.

Many thanks to you, John Steele, and to your restless crew of useful arts promoters, for an excellent illustration to your 1.5-year long scam. I have no doubt that this document will make a good exhibit to numerous motions and counterclaims.

Update

4/11/2012

After a reader has spotted that some of Prenda’s cases were not disclosed as ordered. I decided to write a separate post about it.