Feds Say Jewelry Company CEO Scrubbed Google Results With Fake Court Orders And Forged Judge's Signatures

from the sign-here-to-self-destruct dept

Juicing your SEO? Don't like what turns up during vanity Googling? There are a few right ways to solve this problem and apparently about a million wrong ones.

Doing the wrong thing could easily make things worse. Bogus DMCA notices tend to result in Streisandings, which leads to even more negative comments and contents clogging up your search results. Bogus legal threats issued by stupid lawyers or using stupid, compliant lawyers' letterhead tend to have the same result.

You could get more imaginative and start filing bogus defamation lawsuits to fraudulently obtain court orders for delisting. Again, once you've been rousted, the best case scenario is some more Streisanding and negative ROI. At worst, you're looking at paying legal fees and/or possibly facing sanctions for defrauding the court.

If you want the worst results and the worst punishment, you could do what this jewelry company CEO did:

In 2011, sapphire jewelry company CEO Michael Arnstein was desperate to salvage the Google results for his company. According to a lawsuit for defamation he filed in 2011, a former contractor for the Natural Sapphire Company who was fired for selling them buggy software launched a personal crusade to destroy the Natural Sapphire Company's Google search results. The defendant never showed up in court, so in 2012, a federal judge in New York granted Arnstein a default judgment along with an injunction to de-index 54 Google results.

But more fake reviews kept popping up. So Arnstein did something extremely ill-advised. According to the feds, Arnstein rounded up the bad Google results and forged new court orders to send to Google.

Some sympathy for Arnstein is warranted. Negative reviews -- even the fake ones -- are hard to remove from the web. This isn't necessarily the fault of sites hosting them, but the actions of a few hundred aggrieved companies and individuals who have tried nearly everything (legal or illegal) to have negative content and comments removed, even if they're guilty of what's being alleged in them.

But nuking yourself from orbit is never the answer. It wasn't enough for Arnstein to have successfully (if fraudulently) cleaned up his search results. Nope. He just had to tell others. The feds collected multiple instances of Arnstein informing others how to fix their SEO problems USING THIS ONE ILLEGAL TRICK. From the complaint [PDF]:

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.

Here's another ill-advised Arnstein statement from Courthouse News, which first reported the indictment. It opens with an unforgettable disclaimer… and ends with a statement that might make it tough for Arnstein to find representation:

“I think you should take legal advice with a grain of salt,” he allegedly wrote on Sept. 4, 2014. “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 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.”

Arnstein wanted to clean up bogus complaints and comments from a pissed off contractor. I guess that goal has been achieved. But those results will be replaced with his criminal indictment, fraudulent behavior, and his failure to get away with it.


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2017 @ 9:41am

    SEO: A helluva drug.

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

  2. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 21 Apr 2017 @ 9:43am

    I wonder how his results look now...

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

  3. icon
    JoeCool (profile), 21 Apr 2017 @ 9:49am

    Re:

    They're VERY high... but not for the reasons he wanted. :D

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

  4. icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 21 Apr 2017 @ 9:50am

    But nuking yourself from orbit is never the answer.

    Traditionally you hire a reputation management firm to do it for you.

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

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2017 @ 9:57am

    I wouldn't ever condone an illegal action but if you do go that way, the cardinal rule is to never tell anyone.

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

  6. icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 21 Apr 2017 @ 10:06am

    Re:

    I dunno...

    a former contractor for the Natural Sapphire Company who was fired for selling them buggy software launched a personal crusade to destroy the Natural Sapphire Company's Google search results.

    I might not hire that contractor as a programmer, but it's hard to argue with his SEO results.

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

  7. icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 21 Apr 2017 @ 10:09am

    Re:

    Or have the records of you telling anyone scrubbed from Google search results.

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

  8. icon
    sophisticatedjanedoe (profile), 21 Apr 2017 @ 10:12am

    Judges are more equal than others I guess: forge a judge's signature -- go to jail; forge 500 declarations in bittorent cases -- "but but piracy!"

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

  9. icon
    TechDescartes (profile), 21 Apr 2017 @ 10:36am

    Re:

    It's more likely that the feds prefer an easy case to a hard one. One fraud is easily proved: a quick search of CM/ECF shows that the document never was filed. The other requires work.

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

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2017 @ 11:39am

    Depending on who does it, the ends justifies the means.

    For this guy, it doesn't, for the government, it does.

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

  11. identicon
    Scote, 21 Apr 2017 @ 11:40am

    " I could have saved 100k and 2 years of waiting/damage if I just used photoshop and a few hours of creative editing…"

    And he could have saved years and millions of dollars if he just forged other people's names on checks instead of creating a whole business to earn money the sucker's way!!!

    /s

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

  12. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 21 Apr 2017 @ 11:41am

    Re:

    Of course, I mean copyright is The Most Important Thing Ever, Upon Which Society Itself Rests. No 'collateral damage' is too high when it comes to protecting that.

    /poe

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

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2017 @ 12:34pm

    Re: Re:

    Exactly, he was only breaking the law when he got caught!

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

  14. identicon
    Pixelation, 21 Apr 2017 @ 12:57pm

    Michael Arnstein is a real gem. *ducks*

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

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2017 @ 1:04pm

    Re:

    Loose lips, sink ships. An oldie, but goodie.

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

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2017 @ 1:22pm

    And here I thought Team Prenda was a paragon of brazen and stupid.

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

  17. icon
    TechDescartes (profile), 21 Apr 2017 @ 1:49pm

    Loyalty Program

    So does the "Sapphire Level" of Club Streisand include priority "boarding" and "in-flight" meals?

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

  18. identicon
    Digitari, 21 Apr 2017 @ 2:24pm

    Re: Loyalty Program

    I hear they had an express deboarding perk as well, you don't even have to walk off.

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

  19. icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 21 Apr 2017 @ 2:45pm

    Re: Re:

    The other requires work.

    Probably not a lot more work than six hours and $200, but that is both too much and too little work and expenditure for the feds.

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

  20. identicon
    Ripley, 21 Apr 2017 @ 3:50pm

    Re:

    "Let her go, you bitch!"

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

  21. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2017 @ 4:00pm

    Re: Loyalty Program

    Anagram for Mr S.D Arnstein.

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

  22. identicon
    Docrailgun, 21 Apr 2017 @ 8:13pm

    They're not stupid, they're just evil.
    "Bogus legal threats issued by stupid lawyers..."

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

  23. icon
    Bergman (profile), 22 Apr 2017 @ 12:16am

    Nuking

    "But nuking yourself from orbit is never the answer."

    Nonsense. It's the only way to be sure.

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

  24. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2017 @ 8:37am

    Sad but true

    This comment got me "Lawyers are often worse than the criminals."

    This is truth to this statement, I would love to know the percentage.

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

  25. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2017 @ 4:27pm

    Google isn... is evil.

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

  26. icon
    Voxpop clothing (profile), 16 Jun 2017 @ 10:49pm

    Google Crawling

    Superb! that's true, not stable ranking in google.

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


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: Copying Is Not Theft
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.