MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A former Chicago lawyer who threatened to sue thousands of people who downloaded pornographic video pleaded guilty to fraud charges.
The U.S. Justice Department announced Monday that John L. Steele, who currently resides in Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
In entering his plea, the 45-year-old Steele admitted that between 2011 and 2014 he and Paul Hansmeier threatened copyright lawsuits against individuals who supposedly downloaded pornography from file-sharing websites. Prosecutors claim they obtained more than $6 million through the threats.
Steele admitted he and Hansmeier created sham entities to obtain copyrights to pornographic movies and then uploaded those movies to file-sharing websites to lure people to download the movies.
Hansmeier of St. Paul, Minnesota, was charged as a co-defendant in December. It wasn’t immediately known if he has obtained legal representation.
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