Man tries to get online material taken down—via denial-of-service extortion and bomb threats

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

From the Justice Department:

Kamyar Jahanrakhshan, aka "Kamyar Jahan Rakhshan," "Andy or Andrew Rakhshan," "Andy or Andrew Kamyar," and "Kamiar or Kamier Rakhshan," 32, of Seattle, Washington, was arrested [Friday] on a federal criminal complaint charging him with extortion by threats to cause damage to the Dallas, Texas hosting company for Leagle.com, announced U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas.

According to the affidavit filed with the complaint, on December 30, 2014 Leagle.com, an aggregator of case law from Federal and certain State courts, was contacted by an individual by the name of Andrew Rakhshan by e-mail requesting that a URL linking to a court decision involving Rakhshan be deleted. Claiming that he was the plaintiff in the case, Rakhshan stated that he did not want the opinion available on the internet as it was tarnishing his reputation and violating his privacy. Rakhshan offered to pay a fee to have the post removed.

Between December 30, 2014 and January 16, 2015, Leagle.com received multiple e-mails signed by Andrew Rakhshan offering to pay for the removal of a court opinion in which Rakhshan was a party to. On January 24, 2015 Rakhshan again sent an e-mail claiming that he met a group of hackers online whom were willing to launch a massive cyber-attack on Leagle.com. Rakhshan claimed that he had no other options to resolve the matter. He threatened to use these hackers to conduct a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack to force Leagle.com to comply with his demands. On January 25, 2015, a large amount of traffic targeted the IP address for Leagle.com. The actions the company took could not mitigate the attack traffic. The attack subsided once the company removed the link to the court opinion.

Similar DDoS attacks were carried out by Rakhshan on Fairfax Media5, a media company in Australia and New Zealand; The Metro News, a daily newspaper; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; and Canada.com, a social media discussion site. At times Rakhshan escalated his threats from DDoS attacks to threats of bomb attacks.

A criminal complaint is a written statement of the essential facts of the offense charged and must be made under oath before a magistrate judge. A defendant is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. The government has 30 days to present the matter to a grand jury for indictment. The maximum statutory penalty for the offenses as charged is 5 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated the case, with assistance from the FBI Dallas cyber squad, Seattle cyber task force, Toronto police department, and the Australian federal police….

Here's an excerpt from the opinion that Rakhshan was trying to get removed, Rakhshan v. Whatcom County (Wash. Ct. App. 2009):

A thief has no right to possess stolen property. Here, because the evidence submitted in opposition to Whatcom County's motion for summary judgment is "too incredible to be believed," Andrew Rakhshan has failed in his burden to show there are any genuine issues of material fact. Whatcom County is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. We affirm the dismissal with prejudice and impose sanctions against Rakhshan.

In November 2003, the Whatcom County Sherriff seized five vehicles from a storage yard in Whatcom County based on the claim that Rakhshan had no right to possess the cars because he obtained them by using fraudulent credit cards. In June 2005, he commenced this conversion action against the County….

In 2005, following unsuccessful cross-motions for summary judgment by the parties, Whatcom County obtained authorization from the trial court for depositions in France pursuant to CR 28(b). The trial court sent a letter of request for international judicial assistance to the French court listing the witnesses to be examined and describing the evidence requested. The list included Rakhshan's relatives, Jean-Pierre Fournier and Francois Dupont, whom he had identified as persons with knowledge of the transactions at issue in acquisition of the cars the County seized. The Higher Level Court of Paris convened an International Rogatory Commission and took testimony from the County's witnesses. Neither Rakhshan's relatives nor Fournier nor Dupont appeared before the Commission. Moreover, Rakhshan failed to submit any questions to the Commission for examination of the witnesses.

[Paragraph moved:-EV] The trial court noted that French authorities had reported that the witnesses and participants of the Rogatory Commission had received death threats and had increased security in response. The court also noted that a declaration from Skagit County Superior Court Judge Susan Cook indicated that she received communications from the Rogatory Commission regarding a fraudulent fax bearing her signature and purporting to cancel the Commission.

Rakhshan then sought the trial court's permission to take depositions of his relatives in London and to present the deposition of Fournier, which Rakhshan alleged that he had taken while Fournier was recently in Canada. The trial court denied Rakhshan's motion and granted the County's motion to strike the Fournier deposition. [Whatcom County moved for summary judgment, and the case was dismissed, with the County getting] a judgment of $27,103.79 against Rakhshan for attorney fees and expenses….

In support of its summary judgment motion, the County presented evidence that Rakhshan arranged to purchase the cars from various dealerships over the internet and telephone. Rakhshan admitted that he represented a fake, novelty identification card bearing the name "Andrew Rahshan" to be an authentic British Columbia driver's license in order to purchase the vehicles. He sent the dealers copies of several credit cards bearing the bank designation "BDNI" and an account holder name of "Andrew Rahshan." The County presented the declaration of Joseph Majka of Visa U.S.A. Inc., stating that BDNI is an Indonesian bank that has not been a Visa member since 1998, such that any card bearing the BDNI designation and an expiration date beyond 1998 cannot be legitimate. Majka also stated that the routing number appearing on the cards used by Rakhshan is being used under license by Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, France ("HSBC"), and would not appear on a BDNI card….

In response, Rakhshan claimed that his relatives in France authorized him to purchase the cars with their credit cards. He claimed that his witnesses, including his relatives and French bank employee Jean-Pierre Fournier, would testify that the account numbers that he used to buy the cars were issued to his relatives by the French bank and that he was authorized to use the accounts. He contended that Dupont, another purported French Bank employee, could verify Fournier's employment at the bank. None of this is believable, as the trial court observed….

In this case, Rakhshan persisted in his conversion action against Whatcom County despite the lack of any facts or law to support such a claim. Rakhshan's appeal presents no debatable issues and is frivolous….

For more on the new criminal case, see the FBI agent's affidavit; thanks to David Kravets (Ars Technica) for the pointer. For more on attempts to get online material taken down, including through fraudulent conduct (but not extortion or bomb threats), see some of the posts on this thread.

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