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Prenda Law Lawyer Busted in Porn-Blackmail Scheme
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John Steele

Summary: An attorney for Prenda Law, an already controversial law firm, was busted for his porn-blackmail scheme that brought in $6 million over the course of several years.

A South Beach lawyer was charged with operating a giant porn-blackmail scheme. John Steele and his accomplices would create their own porn and then put it places on the internet where they knew it would be downloaded illegally.

  
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Once the porn was downloaded, the group would contact the individual, demanding cash or else they would reveal their identity and habits to the public. The federal indictment filed claims that Steele made $6 million from the scheme. His main accomplice was his University of Minnesota classmate Paul Hansmeier. Steele was arrested in Fort Lauderdale. He had recently opened a branch of his law firm, Prenda Law, in Miami Beach.

The indictment reads, “Between 2011 and 2014, defendants Paul R. Hansmeier and John L. Steele orchestrated an elaborate scheme to fraudulently obtain millions of dollars in copyright lawsuit settlements by deceiving state and federal courts throughout the country. In order to carry out the scheme, the defendants used sham entities to obtain copyrights to pornographic movies – some of which they filmed themselves – and then uploaded those movies to file-sharing websites in order to lure people to download the movies.”

Prenda Law has been on the radar for quite some time. They have labeled as a “copyright-troll law firm” by law blog Popehat. The blog discovered that the firm was routinely filing frivolous libel lawsuits against anyone who criticized them for exploiting the copyright law. This just drew more attention to them instead silencing their critics like they had hoped.

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Steele would buy the rights to porn videos and then upload them to bit torrent sites, waiting for someone to download them by watching the IP addresses of those who did. They would then file anonymous lawsuits against the users and demand $4,000 or threaten the user with a $150,000 criminal penalty, which exceeds legal limits anyways.

Just one of their movies was downloaded 71 times. They attempted to collect payments from all 71 users. Just months later, the number of users that had downloaded the video had climbed to 3,000.



Do you think the name John Steele sound suspiciously like a male porn star’s name? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

To learn more about Prenda Law, read these articles:

Photo: chicagotribune.com



 

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