Attorney Pleads Guilty In Porn Copyright Infringement Scheme

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — One of two attorneys indicted in a $6 million extortion case has pleaded guilty.

Court documents say 45-year-old John Steele and his partner Paul Hansmeier placed 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 — and then extort money from them.

“I’m often tempted to say I’ve seen it all, and then something like this comes along,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said.

Those were Luger’s words in December, after attorneys Steele and Hansmeier were charged with mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.

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

For Steele, justice came in the form of a guilty plea.

Documents say once someone downloaded a pornographic movie, Steele and Hansmeier would file a lawsuit to find out who the person was.

Then, prosecutors say, the men would send a threatening letter ordering the person to pay their law firm $3,400, or face a larger fine and public embarrassment.

Joseph Daly is an emeritus professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

“Essentially they are acting like the mafia,” he said.

Daly said what’s also disturbing is that the two men allegedly filmed some of the movies that they made available for download.

“They are using fraud, wire fraud. They are using pressure tactics, fear, to extort money from people,” Daly said.

Hansmeier still has not entered a plea.

Last fall, his license was suspended by the state.

“I try to teach students to operate in the finest tradition of what the law is. These two guys go into the very way people think the worst of lawyers,” Daly said.

Hansmeier’s attorney was not available for comment. By pleading guilty to the multimillion dollar scheme, Steele could now face up to eight years in prison. Daly believes that sentence could be reduced if decides to testify against Hansmeier.

More from John Lauritsen
Comments

One Comment

  1. Ben Boniff says:

    BulletToBrainMakesHimDeadJustLikeThat – was there a movie called that?

  2. Kally Omally says:

    8 years or less for $6 million extortion. Crime pays.

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