Prenda's Paul Hansmeier Now Under FBI Investigation For His ADA Lawsuits

from the lawyer-working-on-fraud-hat-trick dept

The wheels of justice have turned to the point where Team Prenda copyright trolling efforts have netted John Steele and Paul Hansmeier federal indictments. The list of charges the pair face is ugly: mail fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and suborning perjury.

After Prenda's many copyright lawsuits fell apart, Paul Hansmeier decided to start trolling small, local businesses with ADA lawsuits, hoping to turn what little legal expertise he has into profitable settlements. During this time, Hansmeier was also facing the dismantling of an attempted bankruptcy filing -- one that very much looked like an attempt to avoid paying judgments resulting from Prenda's years of bullshit. To avoid having his assets turned over to creditors, Hansmeier engaged in some creative accounting, like handing off money to a newly-formed trust and... dumping cash into a cardboard box.

Hansmeier's ADA lawsuits weren't particularly successful and his efforts were beginning to attract judicial scrutiny. Worse, it appears the lawsuits have also attracted the attention of the FBI, which means Hansmeier could soon be facing a second set of indictments.

Jennifer L. Urban, an attorney for DSA [Disability Support Alliance], said in court filings that the nonprofit was a victim of a crime perpetrated by Smith and Hansmeier, his former attorney.

Urban wrote that the DSA filed criminal complaints with the Burnsville Police Department against Smith and another former DSA director, Aaron Dalton, over a series of cash withdrawals earlier this year. A Burnsville detective helped DSA retrieve $4,400 that Dalton was captured on camera taking out of an ATM but was unable to recover $6,900 withdrawn by Smith, Urban said.

The FBI, meanwhile, notified Urban in October that DSA was a possible victim of a federal crime. She wrote Wednesday that DSA is “cooperating with the ongoing federal criminal investigation/prosecution of Paul Hansmeier.”

During the short period Hansmeier was in the ADA trolling business, he filed nearly 100 lawsuits against Minnesota small businesses. Some settlements were obtained, but not nearly as many as Hansmeier would have hoped. His law license was suspended this fall, which meant his trolling efforts have to continue without his assistance. Someone who helped Hansmeier hide money from creditors is now the new face of Minnesota ADA trolling.

His wife, Padraigin Browne, picked up his pending disability access lawsuits — including the CCRE federal suit — and has since filed a number of her own.

Apparently, Hansmeier has more cash on hand -- and has helped others similarly situated in the ADA trolling business.

DSA Board Chair Eric Wong hired Urban’s firm late last year, partly to investigate suspected internal theft. The investigation revealed the theft by Smith and Dalton but also that Hansmeier helped four DSA directors — Smith, Dalton, Zachary Hillesheim and Melanie Davis — steal settlement proceeds from litigation efforts, according to Urban.

She said the investigation also revealed that Hansmeier got $312,218 — more than 70 percent of the revenue generated by DSA litigation — from July 2014 to June 2016 despite never litigating a case to a verdict and being awarded attorney’s fees or invoicing DSA for payment.

A letter [PDF] from the FBI to Jennifer Urban of the DSA confirms the investigation. The letter informs her of her rights as a victim and cautions that investigations are often lengthy and not easily resolved. But the good news is that another set of justice wheels are grinding, however slowly. And at the end of the grind is a lawyer who never found a way to turn his law degree into an honest living.


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 30 Dec 2016 @ 11:25am

    If Kevin Mitnick and Frank Abagnale have taught us anything....

    It's that ten years from now Hansmeier will be a "consultant", selling advice on how to avoid the sort of scams he was pulling.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anon E. Mous (profile), 30 Dec 2016 @ 11:26am

    And this isn't even the end of it yet, these ass clown still have the IRS waiting in the wings to pile on some charges and this will be further evidence to add to their case.

    So much like Prenda deciding to cut out the middle man (which were the actual real porn companies) they are now starting to cut out people who they were supposedly suing for and in support of this group. It never stops with these guys, always a bigger cut of the pie.

    Nice to know that their greed is still their downfall, and now that Hans wife brown is in this and those members from the Disability Support Alliance are now supposedly filing their own ADA suits Pro Se (except the one filed with Hansmerier's wife name on it...Ooops) We may be witnessing the next house of cards falling down in this scheme.

    If Hans wife isnt careful she is going to have the cell Next to Steele and her Husband

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Anon E. Mous (profile), 30 Dec 2016 @ 11:40am

      Re:

      I wonder when the FBI will be looking at Hansmeier's Class Action Justice Institute where Hans was going around to class action suits and putting a notice forth that one of his clients was an Objector to the Class Action settlement

      ( btw, did I mention who Hans clients were... well lets see, there was his Dad Gordon, His Wife Padirigin Browne, Hans Law Clerk in his office, and a friend of his that's a personal trainer )

      Hans wife was his client (how did she end up joining this she bought a $5 dollar groupon coupon to enable her to file an objection) when Hans was objecting to the Groupon Class Action settlement and Hans had one of his team send the Groupon Class Action lawyers a letter saying that his client (his wife)would not file her objection for $30k if that wasnt received within a certain time period, then they would file their Objection to the settlement.

      Needless to say that "offer" to not object for $30k went over like a lead ballon and the class Action counsel informed the Judge of this and the Judge had some unkind things to say.

      You can read that story at this link (Hope the FBI is doing some reading as well)

      https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130319/03470722375/key-players-prenda-lawsuits-also-involve d-questionable-class-action-objections.shtml

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      OldGeezer (profile), 30 Dec 2016 @ 12:08pm

      Re:

      Just what I was going to post. I'm guessing tax evasion charges that are absolutely in the works are going to get him more prison time than everything else. That's federal "pound me in the ass" prison. No parole. Al Capone escaped being tried for all the murders and other violent crimes he committed but one line in a ledger book was enough for the IRS to send him to prison until he was a syphilitic zombie.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 30 Dec 2016 @ 2:32pm

        Re: Re:

        Al Capone escaped being tried for all the murders and other violent crimes he committed

        Only because they didn't need to charge him for those. The Untouchables had a pretty nice rap sheet on him, but they avoided bringing those charges up in the same breath as the tax evasion so that they could hit him with those next if the tax charges fell through. Avoiding double jeopardy et al.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          OldGeezer (profile), 30 Dec 2016 @ 8:23pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          From what I remember from Making of the Mob their other cases were weaker. Possible witnesses were murdered or too scared to talk. Capone had a knack of committing his crimes through others. A RICO statute could have probably easily nailed him but they didn't have that law then.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        trollificus (profile), 30 Dec 2016 @ 3:31pm

        Re: Re:

        One would hope that "syphilitic zombie" would be part of the sentence for Hansmeier et al, but I suspect it was just a coincidence in Capones' case.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Docrailgun, 30 Dec 2016 @ 5:06pm

    Hey, Hans...

    ... welcome to the big leagues.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DB (profile), 30 Dec 2016 @ 5:55pm

    "not particularly successful"?

    I believe that his ADA lawsuits were quite successful. They resulted in a bunch of out-of-court settlements.

    In fact that's what is getting him into trouble. He took the most of the quick settlements as fees, despite spending little time on each and never going to trial. The nominal plaintiffs got a fixed payment regardless of the case outcome -- basically they were paid to pose as plaintiffs. In those respects, this was a repeat of Prenda.

    I believed that Hansmeier was in full control of the DSA. Perhaps he was, until his recent troubles. Once he wasn't in control, the remaining people ("bagholders") recognized the trouble they were in. The DSA wasn't really a non-profit -- Hansmeier had been using the DSA as a front for his legal extortion business. When the bagholders brought in an independent attorney, the attorney probably recommended that their only way out of the situation was to claim to have been tricked and defrauded.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Dec 2016 @ 7:33pm

    Thoughts on scammers

    I don't much like scammers and flim flammers. In fact, I loathe them quite a lot, and I really loathe them when they attack the poor, seniors, or those troubled by other things in life as these men and woman did.

    I do have a bit of pause though. Why on earth would they sell their integrity for such paltry return as a few million? I have been responsible for system that controlled vast sums. Looking back, I see where it would have been very easy to steal some and not be discovered.

    But it's not my money. I don't want it.

    It may be that I'm simply strange or deranged. But I do not feel the slightest inclination to have what isn't mine, or gotten in some dishonest, underhanded way. Doesn't much matter to me if it's a few cents or a few billion. My honor is not for sale and it cannot be bought, or worse, traded for lies and deceit.

    Where is this in Steele & co.? Were the born without it? Did it wither and die? Was is strangled and buried in an unmarked grave? Surely earning a living as a lawyer isn't so arduous as all that scamming, lies, and dishonesty was.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 30 Dec 2016 @ 9:51pm

      'Who needs honor and integrity when you've got money?!' -Prenda

      My honor is not for sale and it cannot be bought, or worse, traded for lies and deceit.

      Where is this in Steele & co.? Were the born without it? Did it wither and die? Was is strangled and buried in an unmarked grave? Surely earning a living as a lawyer isn't so arduous as all that scamming, lies, and dishonesty was.

      Being irredeemably greedy sociopaths probably helps.

      Extortion can be very profitable so long as you disguise it as 'copyright enforcement' after all, the downside is that to get that money you need to screw over a lot of people, but if you don't actually care about anyone but yourself that's not really a problem at all.

      Or put another way:

      'Everyone has their price. And like food, some of them are on the value menu'

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        orbitalinsertion (profile), 31 Dec 2016 @ 2:50am

        Re: 'Who needs honor and integrity when you've got money?!' -Prenda

        I think another element with this, and a lot of other things lately, it that so many outright insane behavior can be gotten away with, and bullshit has become a whole new class of both wild and accepted. So what you have are your classic crap scam artists gone large, and continue to keep right at it in one form or another after they are finally called on it by courts, and long after they are well enough know to a bit of the public.

        The worst sorts of half-assed scammers have been emboldened by the climate of overwhelming bs from ever sector, passivity, and outright acceptance from enough people.

        In a remotely sane world, a judge would have handed these guys a serious zomglolwtf sanction the first case they ever brought, when it is clear they are just not bad attorneys or disorganized or new (but even then, really...), but are clearly trying to game the system and extort people. Those sitting behind the bench seem to be rather free with slapping people and lawyers with contempt threats or charges over far less.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 31 Dec 2016 @ 6:46am

          Re: Re: 'Who needs honor and integrity when you've got money?!' -Prenda

          "I think another element with this, and a lot of other things lately, it that so many outright insane behavior can be gotten away with, and bullshit has become a whole new class of both wild and accepted."

          Gotten away with? It can get you elected president!

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Dec 2016 @ 7:56pm

    I bet these geniuses are still thinking to themselves that they'll be able to bullshit their way out of all of this and get nothing more than a slap on the wrist lol.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Dec 2016 @ 2:04am

    There's still hundreds of thousands of dollars 'missing' from all the Prenda scums accounts.

    Whats the likelihood of Hans etc trying to bribe a judge and it rebounding on him in a terrible terrible way?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    art guerrilla (profile), 1 Jan 2017 @ 8:41am

    hmmm, i wonder if...

    ...there would have been any sort of resolution to this tragic abuse of the law if it had not been reported on, shouted about, and kept current by way of the alternative/'fake' media ? ? ?
    i wonder...
    oh, wait, i forgot:
    PUUUUUUU-TINNNNNNN ! ! !

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Math Is Not A Crime
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.