CEO Gets Nine Months In Prison For Forging Court Documents Ordering Google To Delist Negative Reviews

from the nowaythisplancouldfail.pdf dept

Fake court orders have landed a businessman real jail time. Michael Arnstein, CEO of Natural Sapphire Company, pled guilty last year to forging court orders he sent to Google to delist negative reviews. This was apparently the lesson Arnstein learned from his single, successful defamation suit: it’s cheaper and easier to forge documents than jump through judicial hoops for several months to achieve the same ends.

In fact, he said as much to others seeking solutions to negative review problems — all preserved as evidence used against him by the DOJ:

“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 ‘removals@google.com’ 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”.

Well, Google must have been “checking this stuff,” because the DOJ’s press release about Arnstein’s nine-month prison sentence specifically thanks the company for its “helpful assistance in this investigation.” To add irony to self-inflicted injury, Arnstein’s sentencing was delivered in the same court he impersonated. Arnstein gets nine months for forging court orders, and three years of supervised release following his prison term.

There may be more indictments and sentences on the horizon. The DOJ press release doesn’t name names, but makes it clear it wasn’t just Arnstein participating in this fraud.

In furtherance of this scheme, ARNSTEIN and others forged the signature of a United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York on more than 10 counterfeit court orders.   

Those would presumably be the unnamed employees referenced in the criminal complaint who helped Arnstein edit PDFs he would later forward to Google for URL delisting. Now that Arnstein is a convicted criminal, I wonder if his position on lawyers has changed. From another Arnstein email contained in the criminal complaint:

I think you should take legal advice with a grain of salt. I spent 100k on lawyers to get a court order injunction to have things removed from Google and Youtube, only to photoshop the documents for future use when new things ‘popped up’ and google legal never double checked my docs for validity… I could have just saved 100k and 2 years of waiting/damage if I just used photoshop and a few hours of creative editing… Lawyers are often worse than the criminals.

Sure, but in this case, the criminal might have wanted to run his reputation management plan past a competent lawyer first and saved himself the trouble. Arnstein wanted to clean up his company’s reputation but only managed to destroy his. Whatever nasty things online reviewers said about Natural Sapphire Company, they’re always going to pale in comparison to its CEO’s federal prison sentence.

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Companies: google, natural sapphire

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Comments on “CEO Gets Nine Months In Prison For Forging Court Documents Ordering Google To Delist Negative Reviews”

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27 Comments
ryuugami says:

Should add a few months for crimes against the English language

I spent $30,000 fuckin thousand dollars and nearly 2 fuckin years

Where’d he find the $30 million? 😀

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

I don’t think "legit" means what he thinks it does.

John Smith says:

So unless one wishes to argue for the inherent moral superiority of lawyers, what’s to stop an equally corrupt lawyer (or a rival business) from paying a homeless or otherwise judgment-proof person to either make false negative reviews, or to threaten to in return for a ransom? The Russians do this already, it’s called “reputation blackmail,” all made possible by Section 230.

Why should a few small internet companies have the power of life and death over every business anyway?

Bamboo Harvester (profile) says:

Re: Re:

My gods! Internet companies use corner boys?

Because it’d work about as well as it does in the drug trade.

And in civil suits, lawyers ALWAYS go for the deepest pockets. All they’ve got to do to prove Homeless Hank was paid a cheeseburger by John Smith Internet, Inc. and they’re after YOU.

And once they’ve proved that, you get hit with Criminal charges for all kinds of fun stuff.

Chris Silver Smith (profile) says:

Re: FOR ALL THE WORK..

Thanks to a lack of context in the reporting on this, it makes it sound like he was merely trying to suppress valid customer reviews. In fact, the reason he didn’t just “fix the problems in his company” was that he was seeking to get fake reviews removed from an ongoing defamatory attack from an overseas attacker who trashed his company’s name as part of a broad cyber attack.

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