Paul Hansmeier, one of the lead attorneys behind the controversial law firm Prenda, has been sentenced to 14 years in prison. In addition, he must pay his victims $1.5 million in restitution. The attorney was one of the masterminds behind the fraudulent scheme in which Prenda created and uploaded porn movies to extract settlements from alleged pirates. The Pirate Bay played a crucial role in the case.
In an effort to turn piracy into profit, copyright holders have chased alleged BitTorrent pirates through courts all over the world. This so-called ‘copyright troll’ model was also adopted by the firm Prenda Law. However, the lawyers involved began to break the law themselves. The firm was accused of all sorts of wrongdoing including identity theft, misrepresentation, and even deception. Most controversial was the shocking revelation that Prenda uploaded their own torrents to The Pirate Bay, creating a honeypot for the people they later sued over pirated downloads. This eventually caught the attention of the US Justice Department. In 2015 we first reported that two Pirate Bay co-founders had been questioned by Swedish police, acting on behalf of the FBI. The feds were interested in the honeypot evidence, to build a case against Prenda.
A year later the investigation was finished, resulting in a criminal indictment against Prenda attorneys Paul Hansmeier and John Steele. The US Government accused the pair of various crimes, including money laundering, perjury, mail and wire fraud. Since then both defendants have signed plea agreements, admitting their guilt in the fraudulent scheme. Today the first of the two was sentenced. Paul Hansmeier appeared before a federal court in the District of Minnesota, where U.S. District Judge Joan N. Ericksen sentenced the Prenda attorney to 14 years in prison, to be followed by two years of supervised release.