Welcome to The Home Equity Theft Reporter, a blog dedicated to informing the consumer public and the legal profession about Home Equity Theft issues. This blog will consist of information describing the various forms of Home Equity Theft and links to news reports & other informational sources from throughout the country about the victims of Home Equity Theft and what government authorities and others are doing about it.
Saturday, January 14, 2017
Feds Indict Two Lawyers For Allegedly Running Shakedown Racket That Used Deceptive Copyright Lawsuits To $queeze Victims Who Supposedly Downloaded Online Porn Movies; Indictment: Pair Used Threats Of Huge Financial Penalties & Public Embarrassment To Pocket Approx. $6 Million
From the U.S. Department of Justice (Washington, D.C.):
Two attorneys were charged  in a federal indictment for their roles in a multimillion-dollar scheme to fraudulently obtain settlement agreements from individuals who supposedly downloaded pornographic movies from file-sharing websites.
Paul R. Hansmeier, 35, of St. Paul, Minnesota, and John L. Steele, 45, of Florida, were charged in an 18-count indictment  for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud, substantive wire fraud and mail fraud, concealment money laundering and conspiracy to commit and suborn perjury. Hansmeier was suspended from the practice of law in the state of Minnesota on Sept. 12, 2016.
“Abusing one’s position as a licensed attorney and using the courts and legal process to file false and abusive copyright claims that threaten individuals and encourage fraudulent settlements is wrong and will not be tolerated,” said Assistant Attorney General [Leslie R.] Caldwell.
“The defendants in this case are charged with devising a scheme that casts doubt on the integrity of our profession,” said U.S. Attorney [Andrew M.] Luger. “The conduct of these defendants was outrageous – they used deceptive lawsuits and unsuspecting judges to extort millions from vulnerable defendants.
“The charges announced  describe a fraud scheme perpetrated by lawyers and officers of the court who abused their positions of trust for personal enrichment,” said Special Agent in Charge [Richard T.] Thornton. “The FBI remains committed to uncovering fraud such as this to protect the integrity of our civil justice system.”
“The role of IRS Criminal Investigation becomes even more important in complex financial investigations involving money laundering because of the time it takes to unravel the criminal scheme,” said [IRS] Chief [Richard] Weber. “This case is an excellent example of the lengths to which individuals will go to defraud others in whatever way they can. We are committed to working these types of difficult financial investigations and following the criminal’s money, wherever it leads.”
According to the indictment, between 2011 and 2014, Hansmeier and Steele, both practicing lawyers, executed a scheme to fraudulently obtain approximately $6 million by threatening copyright lawsuits against individuals who supposedly downloaded pornographic movies from file-sharing websites.
Hansmeier and Steele allegedly created a series of sham entities to obtain copyrights to pornographic movies that they uploaded to file-sharing websites and filed bogus copyright infringement lawsuits in order to learn the subscriber information associated with the IP addresses used to download the pornographic movies. The indictment further alleges the defendants used extortionate letters and phone calls to threaten victims with enormous financial penalties and public embarrassment unless they agreed to pay a $4,000 settlement fee.
In total, the defendants obtained approximately $6 million from the fraudulent copyright lawsuits, [according to the indictment].
CBC News: Betrayal of Trust (A CBC investigation reveals how lawyers across Canada have misappropriated and mishandled clients money, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, or sometimes even charging vulnerable people top dollar for shoddy services)
The information, reporting, and commentary contained in The Home Equity Theft Reporter are intended solely to provide general information on The Home Equity Theft issues occurring throughout the United States and are based on information sources deemed reliable by The Home Equity Theft Reporter.
This weblog is not intended, nor should it be regarded by the reader, as a solicitation for business. The posts on this site are presented as general research, information and personal opinion of The Home Equity Theft Reporter and are expressly not intended, shall not constitute, and should not be regarded by anyone, as legal advice.
No claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information linked to or from this weblog are contained herein.