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 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.
The allegations also raised the interest of the US Department of Justice, which indicted Prenda principals John Steele and Paul Hansmeier late last year. The two stand accused of running a multi-million dollar fraud and extortion operation.
A few weeks ago Steele pleaded guilty, admitting among other things that they did indeed use The Pirate Bay to operate a honeypot for online pirates.
Following the guilty plea the Illinois Supreme Court, which started looking into the case long before the indictment, has now decided to disbar the attorney. This means that Steele no longer has the right to practice law.
The decision doesn’t really come as a surprise. Steele has admitted to two of the 18 counts listed in the indictment, including some of the allegations that were also listed by the Supreme Court.
In its conclusion, the Court lists a variety of misconduct including “conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, by conduct including filing lawsuits without supporting facts, under the names of entities like Ingenuity 13 and AF Holdings, which were created by Movant for purposes of exacting settlements.”
Also, Steele’s trolling operation was “using means that had no substantial purpose other than to embarrass or burden a third person, or using methods of obtaining evidence that violates the legal rights of such a person…,” the Supreme Court writes.
Steele was disbarred “on consent,” according to Cook County Record, which means that he agreed to have his Illinois law practice license revoked.
The disbarment is not unexpected considering Steele’s guilty plea. However, victims of the Prenda trolling scheme may still welcome it as a form of justice. Meanwhile, Steele has bigger problems to worry about.
The former Prenda attorney is still awaiting his sentencing in the criminal case. In theory, he faces a statutory maximum sentence of 40 years in prison as well as a criminal fine of hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, by signing a plea agreement, he likely gets a reduced sentence.
The Illnois Supreme Court conclusions are available here (pdf), courtesy of Fight Copyright Trolls.