Attorneys Charged In Porn Extortion Case « WCCO | CBS Minnesota

21 Dec

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — United States Attorney Andy Luger calls them corrupt lawyers who abused the court system they took an oath to protect.

Paul Hansmeier and John Steele were indicted Friday in a $6 million extortion case. Prosecutors say the attorneys threatened to file porn copyright lawsuits against hundreds of people who supposedly downloaded the videos; a scheme that went on for three years.

Luger laid out the accusations, which amounted to a tongue lashing against two attorneys who he says failed to grasp what they learned in law school.

“I’m often tempted to say I’ve seen it all, but then something like this comes along,” he said. “The conduct of these defendants was nothing short of outrageous.”

Paul Hansmeier and John Steele (credit: CBS)

Court documents detail how the alleged extortion scheme worked. Hansmeier, based in Minneapolis, and Chicago-based John Steele would place pornographic movies on file sharing websites.

Once someone would download one, they would file copyright infringement lawsuits in court in order to track down who watched it.

The attorneys would then send that person a threatening letter: pay their law firm $3,400 or face a larger fine and public embarrassment.

“The lawyers had concocted the facts that gave rise to the very lawsuits that they filed — lawsuits that were nothing more than a shake down,” Luger said.

Investigators say Hansmeier and Steele got greedier as time went on, deciding they were done splitting the money with movie makers.

“Wouldn’t it be cheaper to travel to an adult film industry convention, hire some adult film actresses and make their own movies? So they did that,” Luger said.

Hansmeier did not have anything to say as he posted bond and walked out of court on Friday afternoon. He faces perjury, money laundering and mail fraud charges.

“Everything about their practice of law was fraudulent and they will now see justice,” Luger said.

Steele was arrested in Fort Lauderdale Friday morning. If convicted on all 18 counts, the attorneys could face decades in prison.

Hansmeier is also behind filing dozens of lawsuits against small businesses for failing to comply with accessibility rules under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Luger would not comment on those cases, but we do know Hansmeier’s law license was suspended in September.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: