Yes, it's true. I have been contacted by the FBI. Of course, a lot of other people have been contacted as well. Hundreds, in fact. The case they're working on involves some guy who ran a series of rather seedy websites, and used them to attempt to extort money from people. I was one of those people, though he didn't get a dime of my money. But I can't say I wasn't sorely tempted at one point to take the offer. It would have solved what for me had become a source of some serious personal concern. And the ploy was apparently effective because many others did pay.
So how did I become a target in what was a quite large extortion operation? And why am I now getting interesting e-mails from the Feds? Believe it or not, the story goes back to our 2012 City Council election. This really is quite a story, friends. Pull up a chair.
Going into the 2012 Sierra Madre election there was a concerted, though laughably ineffective, attempt to take this blog out. It had become obvious to certain parties in town that a lot of people were starting to get their local news from the Sierra Madre Tattler. We certainly weren't reaching everyone of course, but it was being read by most of those in town who actually bother to vote. And what was being said here was certainly not helping push forward the campaigns of the candidates they were supporting last April. So they decided to go after us.
The initial vehicle was a blog called The Sierra Madre Tattler Tattler. Run by someone using the name of Lady Elizabeth Wistar, it attempted to cast this site as a hotbed of uncivil and highly politically incorrect behavior. With most of the attacks being aimed at my charming self. Unfortunately for Ms. Wistar, not many people were interested in reading a blog that did little more than run down another blog. And Ms. Wistar apparently wasn't up to the job, either. After 5 posts that dealt mostly with her burning obsession with me, she pretty much ran out of malarkey. Today the site sits somewhere out in there in the ether unread and forgotten.
However, that isn't where this story ends. Or why the FBI has come calling. If you follow this link to Elizabeth Wistar's Facebook site (click here), you will find the following message:
Rainbows and unicorns!
I heart John Buchanan, I heart Josh Moran, I heart Nancy Walsh, I heart MaryAnn MacGillivray. I heart Joe Mosca. And I REALLY heart Sierra Madre!
You can read my blog The Sierra Madre Tattler Tattler. It is a spoof of The Sierra Madre Tattler, which is written by John Crawford.
A cyberbullying report has been filed against John Crawford and can be viewed here:
This cyberbullying site that Lady Wistar spoke of (I guess she "hearted" that, too), no longer exists. It completely vanished from the internet about six weeks ago. You can't even find references to it on Google. Something that is not easy to do. Try and pull something off of Google someday. It takes skill and practice.
So imagine my pleasure and surprise when I received the following e-mail from the FBI:
A current Department of Justice - FBI investigation into the websites of stdcarriers.com, illegalalienreport.com, and cyberbullyingreport.com has identified you as being a potential victim in this matter. Please review the attached questionnaire and complete as soon as possible. Any questions in this matter can be directed to this office.
The person (or persons) running these seedy little websites listed in the FBI e-mail is (or are) being investigated by the Federal Department of Justice for extortion. I was one of the persons he/they attempted to run their extortion scam on.
Here is how this operation worked. Let's say someone such as Lady Wistar had a gripe with a person living in her neighborhood. If the person our angry Wistarian didn't "heart" was originally from another country, then she could pay this site operator a sum of money to post her victim's name and likeness on "illegalalienreport.com."
Or let's say our Wistarian found some reason to have a "not heart" situation going on with a neighbor who is Gay. She could then pay these people the set price and post her neighbor's likeness and name to stdcarriers.com and identify him as having AIDS.
Or, as in my case, if the person the concerned Wistarian didn't heart ran a news blog that took political positions contrary to those of her and her lovely friends, then she'd pony up the fee and post the victim's identity on cyberbullyingreport.com.
As nasty as all that is, it isn't what the FBI is after. We're talking extortion here. I, like so many other people who were slandered by people like Lady Wistar, wrote into these sites and complained about the injustice of being placed there. Imagine if you found yourself on one of those sites with your name and picture, and were identified as being an AIDS carrier who has unsafe sex. How would you feel?
Or if you were a hard working non-citizen living in the United States and found yourself pictured on one of those sites as being an illegal alien. Wouldn't you be afraid?
Talk about bullying. Of course you'd want to write to those guys and try to get your name and picture taken down. Those sites were attracting a lot of traffic, and any day a neighbor, or an employer, or even your children might see you there. It was an atrocious and nasty operation that profited by the homophobia, racism and hatred of those who paid them to anonymously slander people they resented.
So where does extortion figure into all of this? I wrote to the site I was apparently placed on by Lady Wistar and tried to talk whomever I was communicating with into taking me off of "cyberbullyingreport.com." I explained that I run a news blog and that the person (or persons) who paid to have me put on there did so out of a very specific political motivation. And by leaving me on that site the person I was telling all this to was at risk of being sued for libel.
The reply I received back from this person claimed his sites were located offshore, and that should I attempt to sue I really would have no real legal ground to stand on. However, this person would take my page down if I were to pay $600 for a "reputation protection service." Which was, of course, an attempt at extortion that I refused to pay.
I have now sent 11 pages of related e-mails and website information to the FBI. I had developed quite a correspondence with whomever owned those sites, and I suspect much of what he wrote there will likely hang him in a Court of Law. The attempts at extorting money from me were repeated several times.
Of course, I still don't know who Lady Elizabeth Wistar is, or was. I do have some opinions, however. My suspicion is that this fictitious figure is a composite of several persons, all of whom had reasons for wanting to silence my blog during last April's election.
As you can see, their strategy failed miserably. And who knows, some of what was included in that effort may yet come back to haunt them.