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  • 12.16.16

These lawyers created their own porn, then threatened to sue anyone who downloaded it, DOJ says

Two attorneys were indicted in Minnesota federal court Friday for what prosecutors said was a multimillion-dollar scheme extorting settlements from internet users for downloading content the lawyers purposely shared on BitTorrent. In some cases, the lawyers allegedly even contracted with adult film actresses and produced pornographic movies themselves solely for the purpose of suing people who downloaded them, according to a federal indictment.

The pairPaul R. Hansmeier, 35, of St. Paul, Minnesota, and John L. Steele, 45, of Florida—allegedly misled judges about their connections to client shell companies that held copyright to the content. They even filed lawsuits falsely alleging one of the companies had been hacked, though the company actually had no computers, prosecutors say. The two, associated with law firms including Chicago’s Prenda Law, were previously sanctioned by a California federal judge in 2013.

They allegedly obtained about $6 million from fraudulent suits, prosecutors say. SM