New Acting Attorney General Part Of A Patent Scam Company Recently Shut Down By The FTC And Fined Millions

from the grifters-everywhere dept

As you’ve certainly heard by now, yesterday President Trump forced out Attorney General Jeff Sessions and, at least for now, installed Sessions’ Chief of Staff Matthew Whitaker to be the acting Attorney General. So who the hell is Matthew Whitaker? Well, Eric Boehlert summed up his history succinctly on Twitter:

Fascinating. But, getting even closer to the usual stuff that we cover on Techdirt, it also appears that Whitaker played a key role in a patent promotion scam company that was recently fined millions of dollars by the FTC. And, Whitaker apparently used his former job as an Assistant US Attorney to try to intimidate an unhappy “customer” of this firm away from filing a Better Business Bureau complaint. In other words, not only is Whitaker associated with a scammy patent marketing company, he also abused his former title in an effort to create a chilling effect on someone’s speech.

The Miami New Times had a big article last year about the scam that was World Patent Marketing, which (of course) was based in Florida (why are so many of these scams based in Florida?). There are a bunch of these kinds of firms out there, that prey on unsophisticated individuals who were able to patent something or (more frequently) think they have something worth patenting. In this case, the Miami New Times describes WPM’s way of working:

Thousands of would-be inventors like Masti were ripped off in the scheme, the feds allege. Padded, posterior-enhancing jeans; fruit crossbred with marijuana; a urinal shield to catch splatter ? each one was sure to be a best seller, the company promised inventors, if they just paid for the firm’s expertise in bringing ideas to market.

In reality, the firm’s illustrious board ? which included big names such as time-travel scientist Ronald Mallett and Florida International University professor Aileen Marti? simply took cash without ever meeting or reviewing any pitches. Some of the supposed innovations the company green-lit already existed, so patent applications were regularly denied. And despite the many “success stories” featured on its website, virtually none of the firm’s clients ever made money.

As millions poured in, the firm’s tough-talking CEO, Scott J. Cooper, boasted about trips to remote islands on his yacht and lashed out in expletive-laden tirades at inventors who complained. In screeds posted online and emailed to customers, the company bragged about its security team composed of ex-Israeli special forces trained in Krav Maga and threatened critics with lawsuits ? or worse.

As the article notes, the FTC has gone after a ton of similar companies over the past couple decades, but new ones keep popping up. And apparently World Patent Marketing dove in with gusto:

In the long history of invention scammers, though, experts say few exceeded Cooper at wringing so much money out of individual victims. With a unique combination of New York bluster and salesmanship ? and a fighter’s willingness to scrap with naysayers ? Cooper charmed hopefuls into sending thousands of dollars before scaring away anyone who thought about blowing the whistle, burned inventors say.

Despite only starting in 2014, the company raked in millions. The Miami New Times article is incredibly detailed in how Cooper ran such a scam. But it also talks about how he would angrily go after dissatisfied “customers.” And apparently some of that included using “advisory board member” Matthew Whitaker. The company revealed in the evidence in the case the FTC filed against the firm, including sending an email to an unhappy customer “A Rudsky” who had threatened to report WPM to the Better Business Bureau. It appears that Cooper passed on this threat to Whitaker, who sent the following email in August of 2015:

If you can’t see that, it says the following (“Scott” is Scott Cooper, who was the CEO/founder of World Patent Marketing):

Mr. Rudsky:

Scott forwarded me your emails and I am concerned about what you are trying to communicate to Scott Cooper and WPM.

I am a former United States Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa and I also serve on World Patent Marketing’s Advisory Board.

Your emails and messages from today seem to be an apparent attempt at possible blackmail or extortion. You also mentioned filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and to smear World Patent Marketing’s reputation online. I am assuming you understand that there could be serious civil and criminal consequences for you if that is in fact what you and your “group” are doing.

I am familiar with your background and your history with Scott. Understand that we take threats like this seriously. Perhaps you can email me and specifically explain to me exactly what your intentions are with regards to World Patent Marketing so I can respond accordingly.
I can be reached at this email address.

Please conduct yourself accordingly.

Why is it that dubious threat letters from sketchy lawyers always seem to end with some variation on “govern yourself accordingly”?

Anyway, in March of 2017, the FTC filed a complaint concerning Cooper and World Patent Marketing. In May of this year, the case was closed out with the court granting a permanent injunction and monetary judgment against Cooper and World Patent Marketing. The court ordered a $26 million payment from the defendants, but also required Cooper specifically to hand over nearly $1 million from the sale of his $3.5 million home, and the rest of the judgment was suspended. There are a bunch of other stipulations in the order, requiring Cooper to accurately submit details of his business activities for many years into the future, and he is “permanently restrained and enjoined from advertising, marketing, promoting or offering for sale, or assisting in the advertising, marketing, promoting or offering for sale of any Invention Promotion Service.”

Whitaker, it seems, was a bit player in this invention promotion scheme, but clearly was closely enough involved that he acted as a legal threat bully in at least that one case. That should certainly raise significant questions about how just a couple years later that same guy is suddenly the country’s acting Attorney General.

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Companies: world patent marketing

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Comments on “New Acting Attorney General Part Of A Patent Scam Company Recently Shut Down By The FTC And Fined Millions”

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FZ Hunter says:

Re: Ooh, a "failed politician"! -- He could be part HONEST, then!

I’m reminded yet again from other comments on prior topics that reading Techdirt is what I imagine drug “trips” are: reality totally distorted. Maybe worse, as nothing you kids rail about is ever based in reality, just made up — as the “Trump-Russia collusion”.

By the way, now that “Democrats” (who don’t at all resemble those of my youth, not least support for working people only the other end of corporate whipsawing) have the House, they’re salivating — and so is Trump! He’s best when leftists go loony, just trolls them so they go further.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Ooh, a "failed politician"! -- He could be part HONEST, then!

I’m reminded yet again from other comments on prior topics that reading Techdirt is what I imagine drug "trips" are: reality totally distorted.

Imagine my ass. This guy is a leftover from the MKUltra LSD trials in the 70’s. He certainly fits the time frame with all his "you kids" bullshit.

Here you go, Skippy:


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Ooh, a "failed politician"! -- He could be part HONEST, then!

Did you just yell ‘Get off my lawn’? ‘Democrats of your youth’? ‘Kids these days’? ‘Not based in reality?’
What century are you talking about, if I may ask.

When you use phrases like ‘leftists go loony’, you are only proving that you are far too indoctrinated into troll land. Politics aren’t for trolls, bridges are, and you and Mr. Trump both need to go find one to hide under.

Thanks for your important ranting contribution to ‘reality’, where you spend more time insulting faceless people through a screen than actually discussing the topics at hand.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Ooh, a "failed politician"! -- He could be part HONEST, then!

Trump himself likely has nothing to worry about from the investigation since he very likely hasn’t done anything of significance against the law. However, when it comes to his lawyers and accountants…they’re likely very worried about what an investigation might uncover.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Ooh, a "failed politician"! -- He could be part HONEST, then!

We will see if we will see is more to the point at the moment. Why are we certain that Trump will let good old boys like Sam Patten, Paul Manafort and potentially Roger Stone get imprisoned by the deep-swamp-lizardmen witch-hunters?

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Ooh, a "failed politician"! -- He could be part HONEST, then!

Reality check, despite what you think, the investigation was not established with Trump as the goal. Moreover, 18 months is a short time for a special investigation.

The investigation is looking into Russian interference in the 2016 election and crimes uncovered in that investigation. Muller has long been praised as a straight shooter, and served under both Republican and Democrat administrations with distinction. If Trump did nothing wrong, he won’t be indicted. But that doesn’t mean the investigation ‘failed’ – it uncovered a number of crimes, financial and election related, and has secured convictions on that information.

I realize you don’t think a lawyer who helped a fraud ring commit fraud has any ethical concerns to worry about. But I really do, and that discussion is important. If you want to discuss his ethical concerns, lets hear your arguments. If you want to claim his ethical concerns are moot because witch hunt, you do not make a good case that Whitaker is being criticized unfairly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Ooh, a "failed politician"! -- He could be part HONEST, then!

which hasn’t gotten anywhere near Trump in 18 months, because there’s no evidence of what didn’t happen

Correct. Zero indictments of anything related to Trump.

George Papadopoulos, former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser (aka coffee boy)

Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chair (aka coffee boy)

Rick Gates, a former Trump campaign aide and Manafort’s longtime junior business partner (aka coffee boy)

Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser (coffee boy)

13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies (coffee suppliers)

Richard Pinedo (got caught making coffee wrong)

Alex van der Zwaan (Rick Gates’ coffee boy)

Konstantin Kilimnik, longtime business associate of Manafort and Gates (coffee boy)

12 Russian GRU officers (coffee boys)

Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer (coffee boy)

Sam Patten, A GOP lobbyist who had worked in some of the same Ukrainian circles as Manafort and alongside Konstantin Kilimnik (coffee boy)

All just coffee-related workers, fetching, pouring, and delivering coffee. Persecuted because fuck coffee.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: "The Mueller investigation...nowhere near Trump in 18 months.""

If there’s no evidence of what didn’t happen, there’s no reason to halt the ongoing investigation of Russian interference of the 2016 US election by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. Especially given that Mueller is not investigating only Trump, but any persons who were involved.

It’s a tall order and it may take a long time.

And to be fair, unless you have inside information on the Mueller investigation you don’t know what Mueller has on President Trump, do you?

In fact, the only reason for the President to restrict or limit the Mueller investigation would be to stop prosecution of either himself or those he cares about (say, Ivanka). And that would be an overt sign of obstructing justice.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Krav Maga?

Krav Maga is the Martial Art Du Jour. It was Karate, then Judo, then Akido, now Krav Maga. If you follow popular media its hillarious how every character is suddenly studying the new martial art when it hits popular consiousness.

I think its because Krav Maga can seem flashy, but its believable that smaller opponents can take on bigger ones (judo and akido), and is easier to learn, so its easier to fight train actors. Also its a non-Japanese art so its new and everyone didn’t throw a punch the same way. Until they did.

nerd bert (profile) says:

Re: Wingmen

There are valid reasons to be concerned about this appointment.

Trump is looking for a “wingman”, not a non-partisan, rule-of-law guy, someone in the mold of Eric Holder. Holder quite openly disregarded the rule of law and withheld documents that were obligated to be disclosed, but that were requested for “political” reasons in his view. (I will remind you that the “wingman” description was Holder’s of himself and his function for Obama.)

Trump is looking for someone to be as devoted to protecting him as Holder was to protecting Obama now that there’s active political opposition in the House. And I fully expect the Democrats in the House to howl with impotent rage when Sessions’ replacement ignores subpoenas in the manner Holder did.

We’ve allowed the DoJ to become a political institution, like it or not. Sessions was the one to make some modest attempt at reversion to the mean and now he’s paying the price for it.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Trump wants ONLY wingmen

He said as much during the whole Comey affair, that Comey wasn’t willing to devote to Trump absolute loyalty and that was the first reason he had to fire Comey.

Sessions was a wingman, but was cornered under the circumstances in which Comey got fired, as a suspect, Sessions felt he couldn’t (in the appearance of good conscience) not recuse himself and appoint an impartial special prosecutor. Trump has a magical superpower of not caring how despicable he looks. And had ever since resented Sessions for not having that superpower, and not having Trumps willingness to do anything to protect Trump.

Anonymous Coward says:

More generally, what is it about “businessmen” presidents that the place the most completely unqualified people in charge of anything?

“The country should be run like a business.” This must mean with cronyism, waste, and a fistful of bankruptcies under it’s belt.

Like Blind Man Calhoun said, “I’ve been a success at being a failure for over 75 years.” The only think these fuckwits are successful at is promoting their own brand to enough susceptible morons.

stderric (profile) says:

Re: Re:

More generally, what is it about "businessmen" presidents that the place the most completely unqualified people in charge of anything?

My word for the day is kakistocracy (new term to me, despite its apparent resurgence of usage since the 2000’s); kinda feels like we’ve got one fueled by a strangely effective mix of fear, greed and negative selection.

David says:

To answer your question:

That should certainly raise significant questions about how just a couple years later that same guy is suddenly the country’s acting Attorney General.

Because he’s the one to quench significant questions about how just a couple years later some other guy is suddenly the country’s acting president?

For heaven’s sakes, Sessions recused himself for having self-interest. That’s like trying to certify a vegan dish in the cantine of an abattoir. He is completely out of touch with the rest of government.

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