Twin Cities attorney gets 14 years in prison for porn scheme

A federal judge in Minneapolis on Friday sentenced a Twin Cities attorney to 14 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to running a multimillion-dollar extortion scheme involving pornographic videos.

Prosecutors say Paul Hansmeier, 37, and his co-defendant John L. Steele set up phony companies to obtain copyrights to adult movies, some of which they produced themselves.

They posted the videos on file sharing sites, including The Pirate Bay, and then filed copyright infringement suits against downloaders, threatening them with big financial penalties and public embarrassment.

In an indictment filed in 2016, federal prosecutors say the men obtained around $6 million with the scheme and convinced courts around the country to approve subpoenas to internet providers in order to obtain user information.

The 168-month sentence is much longer than the 150 months the government had sought. Manny Atwal, Hansmeier's defense attorney, requested a sentence of 87 months. Hansmeier must also pay $1.5 million in restitution.

In September 2016, before he was indicted, the Minnesota Supreme Court indefinitely suspended Hansmeier's law license.

Steele is due to be sentenced July 9, the same day Hansmeier is required to report to prison.

Before you go...

MPR News is dedicated to bringing you clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives when we need it most. We rely on your help to do this. Your donation has the power to keep MPR News strong and accessible to all during this crisis and beyond.