Tag Archives: prenda

U.S. Counters Appeal of Criminally Convicted ‘Copyright Troll’ Lawyer

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/us-government-counters-appeal-of-criminally-convicted-copyright-troll-lawyer-200207/

Last summer, a U.S. District Court in Minnesota sentenced Paul Hansmeier to 14 years in prison, to be followed by two years of supervised release.

Hansmeier was a key player in the Prenda Law firm, which pursued cases against people who were suspected of downloading pirated porn videos via BitTorrent.

Hansmeier and fellow attorney John Steele went a step further though. Among other things they lied to the courts, committed identity theft, and concocted a scheme to upload their own torrents to The Pirate Bay, creating a honeypot for the people they later sued over pirated downloads.

Both attorneys pleaded guilty but Hansmeier reserved the right to appeal, which he did at the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

In his brief, submitted last fall, Hansmeier admits that he abused legal discovery processes. However, he maintains that many of the accused subscribers were pirates. As such, the settlements with these people were legitimate and not fraudulent.

There’s no dispute that there was foul play involved, but these matters should be addressed by civil and regulatory systems of justice and not by criminal law, Hansmeier’s lawyer argued.

This week, U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald and Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa Kirkpatrick responded to these arguments. According to the US, Hansmeier built a career suing thousands of people across the country, accusing them of pirating content he and his co-conspirators uploaded as bait.

That some victims may have indeed shared infringing material is beside the point. According to the federal prosecutors, Hansmeier’s appeal is premised on a misunderstanding of the indictment’s claims.

“Contrary to his claims, the indictment does not charge that the only lies in this case were made to courts. Far from it. Instead, Hansmeier’s lawsuits were fraudulent from the start,” the prosecution writes.

“His scheme entailed lying to courts and using the courts to execute his scheme to defraud victims and making explicit misrepresentations and material omissions to those victims in order to exact quick settlement payments.”

Thus, even though some victims may have broken the law, they were caught by someone who broke the law to catch them, and committed crimes in the process. Or as the prosecution puts it;

“Even if theoretically those victims could be sued for copyright infringement, Hansmeier still misrepresented the nature of his lawsuits in order to exact payments. It was part of his scheme to use litigation to create the illusion of a legitimate civil action environment when, in reality, the entirety of the litigation was a scam and was intended to facilitate his shakedown.”

In addition to the attempt to undo the conviction by framing his offenses as a civil matter, Hansmeier also disputed the court’s order to award roughly $1.5 million in restitution to the victims. This is in part based on the same logic. Since some victims did break the law, Hansmeier argues that the settlements were legitimate.

The prosecution doesn’t agree with this either. While some may have broken the law, they are victims because Hansmeier’s lied and defrauded the court in order to get these settlements.

On top of that, the former Prenda attorney signed a plea agreement where he specifically admitted to receiving more than $3 million in fraudulent proceeds from the lawsuits he was involved in.

“Thus, he agreed that the people who paid him as a result of his copyright infringement lawsuits were fraud victims by acknowledging that the amounts they paid him were ‘fraudulent proceeds.’ He cannot now say that they were not,” the federal prosecutors write.

Based on the above and various other arguments, the US Government asks the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit to affirm the district court’s judgment.

A copy of the full response from U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald and Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa Kirkpatrick is available here (pdf).

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Cooperative ‘Copyright Troll’ Lawyer Sentenced to Five Years in Prison

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cooperative-copyright-troll-lawyer-sentenced-to-five-years-in-prison-190709/

Over the years, copyright trolls have been accused of involvement in various dubious schemes and actions, but there’s one group that has gone above and beyond.

Prenda Law grabbed dozens of headlines, mostly surrounding negative court rulings over identity theft, misrepresentation, and even deception.

Most controversial were the shocking revelations that Prenda itself produced adult videos and uploaded their own torrents to The Pirate Bay, creating a honeypot for the people they later sued over pirate downloads.

The allegations also raised the interest of the U.S. Department of Justice, which indicted Prenda principals John Steele and Paul Hansmeier late 2016. The US Government accused the pair of various crimes, including money laundering, perjury, and wire fraud.

As the case progressed both defendants signed plea agreements, admitting their guilt in the fraudulent scheme. Last month this resulted in a 14 year prison term for Hansmeier, and today,  John Steele learned of his fate.

During a hearing this morning, U.S. District Judge Joan N. Ericksen convicted Steele to a five-year prison sentence. In addition, the disbarred attorney must pay his victims little over $1.5 million in restitution.

Today’s sentencing ironically comes 11 years after Steele was first admitted to the bar.

The lower sentence, compared to Hansmeier, comes as no surprise. It was specifically recommended by the prosecution, which stressed that Steele didn’t shy away from the ugly truth of his crimes and was very cooperative following the indictment.

“Unlike co-defendant Hansmeier, Mr. Steele accepted responsibility for his actions and immediately began zealously and passionately cooperating with the Government,” the prosecution said previously.

“Even before the Government shared the evidence with the defense, Mr. Steele was in their office speaking to numerous law enforcement agents
and prosecutors about everything he did. He never lied and never minimized his actions.”

According to the US Department of Justice, Steele deserved a significant prison term. However, his cooperation and genuine remorse should be taken into account.

Based on the sentencing guidelines Steele faced a potential prison sentence of more than 12 years, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Langner recommended five years in prison instead.

Judge Ericksen went along with this recommendation. The Judge noted that courts “are not a tool in the box for anybody’s hustle,” adding that the five-year sentence was “imminently fair,” as the Star Tribune report.

“I condemn the actions that you took in committing this crime. I congratulate you, however, on the actions you took” in responding to the charges, Judge Ericksen said.

Although both Hansmeier and Steele have been sentenced, the Prenda saga is not completely over yet.

Hansmeier previously informed the court that he is appealing both the sentence and conviction. The Prenda principal challenges the reasonableness of the sentencing and the application of the sentencing guidelines.

A request from Hansmeier to await the result of the appeal as a free man was previously denied.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

‘Copyright Troll’ Lawyer Appeals 14 Year Prison Sentence

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/copyright-troll-lawyer-appeals-14-year-prison-sentence-190627/

Two weeks ago U.S. District Judge Joan N. Ericksen sentenced Paul Hansmeier to 14 years in prison, to be followed by two years of supervised release.

Hansmeier was a key player in the Prenda Law firm, which pursued cases against people who were suspected of downloading pirated porn videos via BitTorrent. 

Hansmeier and fellow attorney John Steele went a step further though. Among other things they lied to the courts, committed identity theft, and concocted a scheme to upload their own torrents to The Pirate Bay, creating a honeypot for the people they later sued over pirated downloads.

Both attorneys pleaded guilty and Hansmeier was the first to be sentenced. However, he is not planning to let the matter go without a fight. This was already made clear in his plea agreement last year, where he reserved the right to appeal.

This week Hansmeier’s informed the court that he is indeed appealing to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. The notice reveals that he is appealing both the sentence and conviction, challenging the reasonableness of the sentencing and the application of the sentencing guidelines.

From the appeal notice

Hansmeier initially hoped to be released pending his planned appeal. Before the sentencing, his attorney put in a request to make this happen, in an effort to keep him out of prison.

The U.S. prosecution objected and asked the court not to allow bail. Among other things, it argued that the Prenda attorney may be a flight risk, considering that he previously lied to courts, created sham entities in order to shield himself, and destroyed evidence when he was found out.

The court sided with the prosecution and denied the bail request. This means that Hansmeier will serve time while his appeal is ongoing. 

There was initially also some positive news for the Prenda attorney. Through his bankruptcy trustee, he was awarded a $75,000 settlement for restitution the lawyer previously paid against an accused file-sharer, while not being a named party. 

Hansmeier is not going to see any of that money though, as U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald swiftly put in a request to reserve the funds for the victims of the Prenda scheme.

“Hansmeier is set to receive a substantial amount of money and justice requires an order for its immediate payment towards the restitution he owes his victims,” MacDonald wrote.

The court agreed and this week ordered that the $75,000 should be reserved for potential victims. The court previously ordered that, in addition to the prison sentence, Hansmeier must pay his victims a total of $1.5 million in restitution.

For now, however, all eyes will be on the appeal. 

John Steele, the second defendant in the Prenda case, is scheduled to be sentenced in July. The U.S. prosecutor previously stated that Steele has been very cooperative following his arrest so has recommended an 8-10 year sentence.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

‘Copyright Troll’ Lawyer Sentenced to 14 Years in Prison

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/copyright-troll-lawyer-sentenced-to-14-years-in-prison-190614/

In an effort to turn piracy into profit, copyright holders have chased alleged BitTorrent pirates through courts all over the world.

This so-called ‘copyright troll’ model was also adopted by the firm Prenda Law. However, the lawyers involved began to break the law themselves.

The firm was accused of all sorts of wrongdoing including identity theft, misrepresentation, and even deception. Most controversial was the shocking revelation that Prenda uploaded their own torrents to The Pirate Bay, creating a honeypot for the people they later sued over pirated downloads.

This eventually caught the attention of the US Justice Department. In 2015 we first reported that two Pirate Bay co-founders had been questioned by Swedish police, acting on behalf of the FBI. The feds were interested in the honeypot evidence, to build a case against Prenda.

A year later the investigation was finished, resulting in a criminal indictment against Prenda attorneys Paul Hansmeier and John Steele. The US Government accused the pair of various crimes, including money laundering, perjury, mail and wire fraud.

Since then both defendants have signed plea agreements, admitting their guilt in the fraudulent scheme.

Today the first of the two was sentenced. Paul Hansmeier appeared before a federal court in the District of Minnesota, where U.S. District Judge Joan N. Ericksen sentenced the Prenda attorney to 14 years in prison, to be followed by two years of supervised release.

The Judge departed upward from the 12.5-year prison sentence the U.S. prosecutor recommended. In addition to the prison sentence, Hansmeier must pay his victims a total of $1.5 million in restitution.

Among other things, Hansmeier instructed his brother to upload torrents of videos he produced himself. In doing so he misled the court, as he made it appear as if the videos were from a third-party company.

Whether the people that were sued were indeed guilty wasn’t much of an issue. This means that many innocent people were likely targeted as well.

“Hansmeier was generally content to take this step without investigating whether the subscriber was, in fact, the infringer. Hansmeier thus inflicted plenty of pain on persons who did not, in fact, download his pornographic bait,” the Government previously wrote.

All victims of the Prenda scheme are all eligible for restitution. The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Minnesota previously invited those who were affected by the fraudulent anti-piracy lawyers to come forward.

John Steele, the second defendant in the Prenda case, is scheduled to be sentenced next month. The U.S. prosecutor previously stated that Steele has been very cooperative following his arrest so has recommended an 8-10 year sentence, as FCT notes.

Breaking story, further clarifications and updates will follow if needed.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Victims of Prenda Law ‘Copyright Trolls’ Can Now Register for Restitution

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/victims-of-prenda-law-copyright-trolls-can-now-register-for-restitution-190427/

In an effort to turn piracy into profit, copyright holders have chased alleged BitTorrent pirates through courts all over the world.

This so-called copyright troll scheme was also used by the firm Prenda Law. However, the lawyers involved started to break the law themselves.

The firm was accused of all sorts of wrongdoing including identity theft, misrepresentation, and even deception. Most controversial was the shocking revelation that Prenda uploaded their own torrents to The Pirate Bay, creating a honeypot for the people they later sued over pirated downloads.

This eventually caught the attention of the US Justice Department. In 2015 we first reported that two Pirate Bay co-founders had been questioned by Swedish police, acting on behalf of the FBI. The feds were interested in the honeypot evidence, to build a case against Prenda.

A year later the investigation was finished, resulting in a criminal indictment against Prenda attorneys Paul Hansmeier and John Steele. The US Government accused the two of various crimes, including money laundering, perjury, mail, and wire fraud.

Since then both defendants have both signed plea agreements. They now face years in prison. While it is by no means illegal to go after file-sharers, the Prenda attorneys crossed a line by repeatedly lying to or misleading the courts.

The US prosecutor recently recommended a 12.5-year prison sentence for Paul Hansmeier, who instructed his brother to upload torrents of videos he produced himself. In doing so he misled the court, as he made it appear as if the videos were from a third-party company.

In total, Prenda Law generated roughly $3,000,000 from the fraudulent copyright lawsuits they filed at courts throughout the United States.

Thus far very little has been said about the victims of the scheme but with the final sentencing coming up, this has changed. The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Minnesota is now allowing people who were targeted by the scheme to register for restitution.

“HANSMEIER and STEELE were charged and convicted of orchestrating a multi-million dollar fraud scheme in which they obtained payments from victims to settle sham pornography film copyright infringement lawsuits,” the Attorney’s Office writes.

“At the sentencing hearing, the Court may, but is not required to, order HANSMEIER and STEELE to pay restitution to the victims of their scheme.”

The list of potential victims includes everyone who paid a settlement to any of the related companies, including Steele Hansmeier Law, Prenda Law, Alpha Law, Anti-Piracy Group, AF Holdings, Ingenuity 13, Guava LLC, Livewire, and LW Systems.

The Attorney’s Office encourages all potential victims to fill out a form, so it can identify whether they were indeed defrauded by the defendants. The information provided will be shared with the court, but it won’t be available publicly.

The sentencing for both defendants is scheduled for June 4, before Judge Joan N. Ericksen in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Here, it will be decided whether the two defendants must pay restitution, which is not a given.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.