Prenda Attorney Changes Plea to Guilty in Porn-Trolling Case

Prenda Attorney Changes Plea to Guilty in Porn-Trolling Case

MINNEAPOLIS — Paul Hansmeier, the former Prenda Law partner who was charged with conspiring to extort $6 million from thousands of defendants through porn-trolling lawsuits, has entered a guilty plea in connection with a case involving fraudulent copyright lawsuits.

A second attorney, John Steele, also involved in the case, pleaded guilty in March 2017 to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Today, Hansmeier pleaded guilty to the same charges — conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, as well as conspiracy to commit money laundering. He previously pleaded not guilty in connection with the case.

The two counts could spell 20-year prison terms, as well as huge criminal fines, per count. He has yet to be sentenced by a federal judge.

With the plea agreement, 16 other counts will be dismissed, so long as Hansmeier complies with the terms of the plea agreement.

Steele and Hansmeier created a series of fake entities through which they obtained copyrights to pornographic movies, some of which they filmed themselves, and then uploaded the films to file sharing websites to lure others to download them.

The attorneys would then file fake copyright infringement lawsuits, concealing their own roles in the distribution of the films. Steele admitted to investigators he and Hansmeier would threaten the individuals involved in the fake lawsuits with financial penalties and public embarrassment if they didn't agree to pay a settlement fee.

Another former Prenda Law attorney, Paul Duffy, who was involved with the law office's scheme, died in 2015 from heart- and alcohol-related conditions.

View plea deal