The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent


Apparently-fake-defendant libel lawsuit watch: Richart Ruddie & SEO Profile Defender Network LLC paying $71,000 to settle claim


Back in October of last year, Paul Alan Levy (Public Citizen) and I wrote about various libel cases brought against defendants who seemed not to exist. One might ask: How can one get real money from a fake defendant or order a fake defendant to do real things? It turns out the point was seemingly to get an injunction that would then be submitted to Google (or, in one instance, to Yelp): Google and similar companies have a policy of removing or deindexing material once a court has found it to be defamatory, so all that's necessary is to have an apparently real defendant, who would then purportedly stipulate to the entry of a real injunction.

Paul's assiduous lawyering has now borne fruit: Richart Ruddie, who runs several "reputation management companies" (including at least RIR1984 LLC and SEO Profile Defender Network LLC), has agreed to pay $71,000 to settle a claim brought by the company (Myvesta) whose posts were targeted for deindexing by one of these orders. U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith had already concluded, in Smith v. Garcia (Jan. 31, 2017), that

In light of the evidence that the Consent Judgment was procured through fraud on the Court, including the misrepresentation that the named Plaintiff instigated the action, Myvesta's Motion to Vacate is GRANTED.

And now Ruddie and his companies have agreed to settle the claim, for $71,000, which reflects the damages to Myvesta and the time spent by Public Citizen to litigate the case. Ruddie also agreed to vacate the orders in three other cases, Smith v. Levin (brought in Maryland court by lawyer Bennett J. Wills), Financial Rescue LLC v. Smith (brought in Florida court by lawyer A. Cody Emerson) and Rescue 1 Financial LLC v. Doe (brought in Florida court by lawyer Eric S. Orner). Levy's post reports further on his views on the matter and offers his account of how he got to the settlement. (Note that, in Smith v. Levin, court records included Levin's ostensible address, which is the common practice in Maryland; Giles Miller, the private investigator who has been kindly helping me with this project tells me that no-one with that name could be found at that address.)

The district court order stated that "the Court directed the file be sent to the United States Attorney for investigation"; Levy's post states that

Ruddie is in the final stages of plea bargaining with the United States Attorney for the District of Rhode Island; we understand that his obligations will extend to getting phony consent orders lifted in two dozen other cases besides those involving Myvesta.

Congratulations (and thanks) to Levy for all his work in this case, and to Matthew Chan, whose call back in August first alerted me to this whole situation.