back to article Prenda lawyer pleads guilty to moneyshot honeypot scheme

One of the attorneys behind notorious copyright operation Prenda Law has just agreed to plead guilty to a pair of felony counts. Paul Hansmeier agreed on Friday to a deal [PDF] that will see him take convictions on one count conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. In …

  1. Mark 85 Silver badge

    The DA's statement says more about protecting the image* of lawyers than about the law.

    * image -- I guess they have one other than what we mere mortals think or at least think they do.

  2. Youngone Silver badge

    It's a shame

    It look like the Prenda saga is winding down.

    I for one have enjoyed the entertainment, although if I had been sued I might have taken less pleasure in it.

    Just awaiting Mr. Steele's sentencing I suppose.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: It's a shame

      "It look like the Prenda saga is winding down."

      Only partly - and there are another half dozen sagas like it wending their way through the wilderness.

      You can expect a bunch of naked arses scurrying into the bushes now the spotlight's being turned onto "full brightness" and the shotguns are loaded with #00 shot.

    2. Oengus Silver badge

      Re: It's a shame

      I for one have enjoyed the entertainment, although if I had been sued I might have taken less pleasure in it.

      So you're one of those that downloaded and, presumably, watched the video...

  3. tweell

    One of the 98% that give the 2% a bad name

    Hansmeier declared bankruptcy a day before his court date for contempt - for not paying his fines and damages from the Prenda scheme. Since Prenda went down in flames, Hansmeier has been suing small businesses on behalf of a handicapped non-profit he started and runs. Since his law license has been suspended, he's put his lawyer wife to work fronting those lawsuits. Such a nice guy!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One of the 98% that give the 2% a bad name

      His wife? So that's where the $750,000 will come from? Loyalty as your only morality can be really expensive!

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: One of the 98% that give the 2% a bad name

      "Hansmeier declared bankruptcy a day before his court date for contempt - for not paying his fines and damages from the Prenda scheme."

      As in the UK, if the court decides that the bankruptcy was to avoid a court judgement, then it merely exacerbates the penalties.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: One of the 98% that give the 2% a bad name

        "As in the UK, if the court decides that the bankruptcy was to avoid a court judgement, then it merely exacerbates the penalties."

        And judges really don't like people trying to take the piss out them.

        1. Lotaresco Silver badge

          Re: One of the 98% that give the 2% a bad name

          "As in the UK, if the court decides that the bankruptcy was to avoid a court judgement, then it merely exacerbates the penalties."

          If only that were true in the UK. Note that in the ACS:Law debacle the SRA accepted Crossley's declaration that he was "bankrupt" at face value and did not question him continuing to live in a home and driving expensive cars bought with the cash that rolled in from his "copyright infringement" activities. Despite there being a body of evidence that showed that all the participants in the "copyright infringement" actions were closely linked and that porn had been seeded to torrents to entrap punters, the SRA took a generous view of Crossley and fined him less than half the purchase cost of one of his Bentleys.

      2. kain preacher Silver badge

        Re: One of the 98% that give the 2% a bad name

        In the US you need court approval to dismiss court fines in bankruptcy court.

  4. 45RPM Silver badge

    These guys have got a bright future ahead of them…

    …as Donald Trump’s lawyers. They display the same level of competence as each other and both have demonstrated the same moral values. Besides, at the rate Trump gets through staff, they’ll be the only option soon.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: These guys have got a bright future ahead of them…

      Besides, at the rate Trump gets through staff, they’ll be the only option soon.

      Canter and Siegel.

  5. Crazy Operations Guy

    "criminal fines of up to $750,000 when he is sentenced later this year."

    Too bad the victims of his scheme aren't going to see a single dime of that money... It always angers me how our 'Justice' System will levy fines, but then do nothing with the proceeds to help the victims of that crime or to prevent the crime in the future. Seriously, all it seems to do is incentivize the justice system to let widespread fraud happen.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: "criminal fines of up to $750,000 when he is sentenced later this year."

      "Too bad the victims of his scheme aren't going to see a single dime of that money"

      Not according to the report on the Beeb: "It also includes clauses that will see cash gathered by Prenda, and potentially more in damages, returned to the people who paid up."

      1. Killfalcon Bronze badge

        Re: "criminal fines of up to $750,000 when he is sentenced later this year."

        The full plea deal is in fact contingent on repaying the victims of fraud (who identify themelves to the relevant prosecutors in Michigan). If they are not repaid, the deal is invalid, and things will not go well for this Prenda goon.

        Leonard French, a US lawyer who worked on one of the very earliest cases, has a pretty good youtube video about this deal on his "Lawful Masses" channel.

      2. David 132 Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: "criminal fines of up to $750,000 when he is sentenced later this year."

        @Doctor Syntax "It also includes clauses that will see cash gathered by Prenda, and potentially more in damages, returned to the people who paid up."

        Unless the victims can't be identified.

        In which case the cash will "return to Prenda, address unknown..."

  6. EveryTime Silver badge

    I'm guessing that there is money in places beyond just a shoebox in the hall closet.

    Remember that Steele and Hansmeier were experts at hiding money and control. Their Nevis trust was an obscure type ("undefined beneficiary") that is prohibited everywhere but there. Their knowledge of utilizing offshore shell corporations reveals their interest in shell corporations and tax dodges.

    1. John G Imrie Silver badge

      LLP

      I wonder how much of that money washed it's way around the London financial markets via shell Limited Liability Partnerships.

  7. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    I believe this was a scam that crossed international borders.

    Which would make it a polyglot moneyshot honeypot.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fun times ahead I guess

    Plenty of time for long chats with former (failed) clients in the Rec Room...

  9. Lotaresco Silver badge

    The Prisoner of Prenda?

    I'm surprised El Reg didn't got for this headline.

    I'm also pleased to see the way this has gone. Contrast this with ACS:Law and the vile Andrew Crossley who leaves a mucus trail behind him wherever he goes. ACS:Law was running a similar scam with evidence from leaked emails that the "copyright holder" claiming infringement of rights was closely linked to ACS:Law and that torrent sites had been seeded with porn that was not selling at all in the market. So of course the trackers were compromised from the beginning.

    What's the reaction of Solicitors' Regulation Authority? They found he was guilty of "acting in a way that was likely to diminish the trust the public places in him or in the legal profession" and "using his position as a solicitor to take unfair advantage of the recipients of the letters for his own benefit". The consequence was... a mild slap on the wrist. Crossley pleads bankruptcy, gets to keep his mansion and the cars he boasted about in leaked internal emails, and suffers not at all because he's still able to practice.

    The UK really needs to tighten the noose on its professions, lawyers in particular.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: The Prisoner of Prenda?

      UK lawyers and law makers are largely cut from the same private/public school posh cloth. And no Old Etonian law maker is going to do anything that might hurt an Old Etonian lawyer. Are Americans the same? I wouldn't be too surprised if so. (Albeit Yale/Harvard not Eton/Harrow )

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The Prisoner of Prenda?

        "Are Americans the same?"

        I think they are pretty much all the same. The following story is definitely not one that I'm proud of, but I have changed my ways..

        Many, many moons ago, when my pubes were not yet as gray, I was caught speeding. As in going 173 kph where 120 was allowed. I was ordered to court, but sent a lawyer instead. Apparently my insurance even covered that. I got off with the lightest possible sentence, driving license lost for a week and a 250 euro fine. And I didn't even have to pay for said lawyer (though the insurance premium went up ever so slightly the next year). A friend of mine had a similar mishap in the same year and decided to "defend" himself. He went to court. Lost his license for a month and had to pay 1000 euro.

        All judges everywhere were once lawyers and went to the same schools and universities.

        1. Tom 38 Silver badge

          Re: The Prisoner of Prenda?

          Once I tried to unblock my own toilet instead of paying for a plumber, and I got covered in shit. It doesn't mean there is a toilet-plumber boys club, it just means I don't know what I'm doing.

          1. Thunderpants
            Thumb Up

            Re: The Prisoner of Prenda?

            "toilet-plumber boys club"

            Brilliant.

        2. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: The Prisoner of Prenda?

          Hmmm

          Some years a go my car was in a minor bump. hit by an oncoming car on a bend. The young driver admitted guilt. Then a few weeks later his father seems to have told him not to, and use their legal insurance to contest this. It went to a court. Our insurers fought and sent a young girl lawyer from a redbrick uni. His legal insurance paid for an equally young but posh boy from an old university. We had nothing to lose ( even ncb was protected). They would have had to pay themselves. We had no reason to lie ( see above), they brought a witness who was shown ( by the judge himself) to be lying.

          And then the judge said he believed them, not us - and our insurer lost. I don't think I come across as being untrustworthy. They had been proved liars. But still the judge found for them. Maybe it's just cynicism, but I couldn't see any other factor at play other than the judge's wanting to give a boost to the posh-boy lawyer.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The Prisoner of Prenda?

            He wandered in to the court room and announced "Hi, I'm Tarquil and I went to Eton and Oxford"? Do you want any salt and vinegar for that chip on your shoulder?

            1. Terry 6 Silver badge

              Re: The Prisoner of Prenda?

              AC

              Not Tarquin, but certainly a Jeremy or something similar. ( There aren't many real Tarquins). With the accent that does the identifying for him. So I'd doubt that there were many who couldn't identify his background, even if it hadn't been known.

              So maybe you are the one with a chip on the shoulder, if you struggle to accept this sad fact of life. It's well documented. Oxbridge having the lowest level of students from working class backgrounds across all subjects. And the highest level of law students getting the all important post-grad training contracts is biased significantly in favour of Oxbridge, (by way of Eton/Harrow) too.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: The Prisoner of Prenda?

                I think you have a chip on your shoulder because you think that you know everything about them from hearing their accent, and have been fitted up by some sort of school tie association because you lost your case.

                I'm sure they put the fix in for that one, they chose their best Harrow/Oxbridge educated man to do a number on you, in a car insurance formality. Oh yes. £500k in school fees, but it was worth it to keep you in your place...

                1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                  Re: The Prisoner of Prenda?

                  You don't get it do you AC ( Are you really a "Tarquin"?)

                  His university ( and my insurer's lawyer's) came up in the informal talk in the tribunal setting - not just an accent. I lost nothing- protected ncb - and was there as a witness for my insurers. But I admit the injustice hurt - I knew I was being truthful and like now, had no need to lie. The insurer's young lawyer was very deflated. In the face of an original admission by the other side, by an outright lie by a witness that they had coached in his evidence and that the judge himself had caught as a lie and by the imbalance between their vested interest in the outcome and our financial independence the judge still found for them.

                  I could have been lying for all you know ( but if so why would I mention the case here?). But there was no evidence presented that might identify a lie in my evidence any more then there was a motivation for it. They otoh were caught in a lie and did have a financial interest.

                  So you can draw whatever conclusions you choose. But in doing so you put your own shoulder chips on display.

    2. Fatman Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: The Prisoner of Prenda?

      <quote>Contrast this with ACS:Law and the vile Andrew Crossley who leaves a mucus trail behind him wherever he goes.</quote>

      Well said.

      I wish I could give you more than one upvote.

    3. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: The Prisoner of Prenda?

      What's the reaction of Solicitors' Regulation Authority?

      What else can they do - they are effectively a trade body, not the courts. It would be for someone (either the CPS or an individual) to start legal proceedings in court - and then the court would be able to judge what they are or aren't guilty of, and what the penalty for those crimes should be.

      All the SRA can do is toss him out - which prevents him practicing as a solicitor any more.

  10. Alistair Silver badge
    Windows

    There is a pivot to the *current* case, and that is that Hansmeier still has an outstanding appeal pending that could in fact toss out *all* charges against him, resulting in *this* judgement being moot and invalid.

    Apparently his partner in crime is 'helping' the investigation and is basically free and clear at the moment.

    I know a *real* lawyer, who actually takes her job quite seriously, and one just has to mention these two and she has a tendency to become volcanic.

    1. Killfalcon Bronze badge

      Well... this isn't a judgement, it's a plea. Very, very broadly, the prosecution has agreed to only ask for ~10-14 years in jail, and to stop looking for new things to charge over, IF Dumbass Prime here pays back those he's extorted (regardless of if they're involved in their prosecution directly) and pleads guilty.

      If the charges get thrown out (they won't - his appeal is essentially "okay, I lied to the court to get people's addresses, but that fact is not relevant in if I defrauded people when I sent letters to those addresses"), then there's still plenty more charges left in the box they can use instead.

  11. Scott Pedigo
    Coat

    His Biggest Mistake Was...

    that he didn't call Saul.

  12. Terry 6 Silver badge

    "Snowflake" "chip on the shoulder" etc.etc

    All good ways of undermining the truth by labelling the truth tellers - a form of ad hominem attack. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem

    And no less disgraceful for being posted ( as an AC) here.

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