Company CEO Pleads Guilty After Forging Judge's Signatures On Bogus Court Orders Sent To Google
from the SEO-suicide dept
Earlier this spring, a jewelry company CEO earned himself a federal indictment for his bespoke reputation management efforts. Realizing it was extremely difficult to erase negative reviews from the net, National Sapphire Company boss Michael Arnstein took one such reviewer to court. He was awarded an injunction after the defendant no-showed, resulting in the delisting of 54 URLs.
But the negative reviews kept coming. Rather than hire a lawyer and bring more defamation suits, Arnstein opted for the initially less-costly option: mocking up delisting orders and forging a judge’s signature. This apparently worked well enough Arnstein felt comfortable sharing his fraudulent tactics with others. This swaggering, inculpatory statement was included in the federal complaint.
“No bullshit: if I could do it all over again I would have found another court order injunction for removal of links (probably something that can be found online pretty easily) made changes in photoshop to show the links that I wanted removed and then sent to ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ as a pdf — showing the court order docket number, the judges [sic] signature — but with the new links put in,” Arnstein wrote in a July 2014 email, according to his criminal complaint. “Google isn’t checking this stuff; that’s the bottom line b/c I spent $30,000 fuckin thousand dollars and nearly 2 fuckin years to do what legit could have been done for about 6 hours of searching and photoshop by a guy for $200., all in ONE DAY”.
The DOJ — aided greatly by Arnstein generating plenty of evidence against himself — pulled the trigger on a federal indictment. And, thanks to several other cases of rep management firms defrauding courts, Google is indeed “checking this stuff,” limiting the effectiveness of impersonating judges and/or sliding bogus paperwork past them.
Arnstein has now pled guilty to a conspiracy charge, the DOJ reports.
ARNSTEIN, 40, of Kailua, Hawaii, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to forge a judicial signature, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. The maximum potential sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
And one more bit of schadenfreude:
Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said: “As he admitted today, Michael Arnstein exploited the authority of the federal judiciary in a blatantly criminal scheme. By forging court orders and the signature of a U.S. District Judge, Arnstein was able to effectively erase websites critical of Arnstein’s business from its search results. Now Arnstein awaits sentencing in the same court he impersonated.”
Some sympathy is warranted for those hoping to battle negative reviews. Even illegitimate negative reviews can be close to impossible to remove from the web. But if the system seems unfair, it has to be. Making it easier to remove bogus reviews would just make it easier for companies/individuals who’ve earned every acidic word in their negative reviews to scrub the web of bad things.
The internet may be a well-oiled hate machine, but it’s also a handy source of reference for customers who want to emerge unscathed from interactions with providers of goods and services. Easy delistings would turn the web into a cheery place where every company appears to exceed expectations, even as they screw their customers over.