Jury Convicts Social Media Entrepreneur in Plot to Hijack Internet Domain
A man who enlisted his cousin to break into a Cedar Rapids man’s home and order him at gunpoint to transfer an Internet domain was convicted by a jury on April 18, 2019. The jury’s verdict followed a four-day trial in federal court in Cedar Rapids.
Rossi Lorathio Adams II, age 26, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, also known as “Polo,” was convicted of conspiracy to interfere with commerce by force, threats, and violence. The verdict was returned after about an hour of jury deliberations.
The evidence at trial showed that Adams founded the social media company “State Snaps” while a student at Iowa State University in 2015. State Snaps operates on a variety of social media platforms, including Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter. At one time, Adams had over a million followers on his social media sites, which mostly contained images and videos of young adults engaged in crude behavior, drunkenness, and nudity. In 2015, a Des Moines area television station aired a news segment in which Adams, who in the interview would only identify himself as “Polo,” was continuing to operate his social media sites despite the objections of Iowa State University administrators and the policies of the social media platforms.
Adams’ followers often used the slogan, “Do It For State!” Adams tried to purchase the Internet domain “doitforstate.com” from a Cedar Rapids resident who had registered the domain with GoDaddy.com. Between 2015 and 2017, Adams repeatedly tried to obtain “doitforstate.com”, but the owner of the domain would not sell it. Adams also threatened one of the domain owner’s friends with “gun emojis” after the friend used the domain to promote concerts.
In June 2017, Adams enlisted his cousin, Sherman Hopkins, Jr., to break into the domain owner’s home and force him at gunpoint to transfer doitforstate.com to Adams. Hopkins was a convicted felon who lived in a homeless shelter at the time.
On June 21, 2017, Adams drove Hopkins to the domain owner’s house and provided Hopkins with a demand note, which contained instructions for transferring the domain to Adams’ GoDaddy account. When Hopkins entered the victim’s home in Cedar Rapids, he was carrying a cellular telephone, a stolen gun, a taser, and he was wearing a hat, pantyhose on his head, and dark sunglasses on his face.
The victim was upstairs and heard Hopkins enter the home. From the top of a staircase, the victim saw Hopkins with the gun on the first floor. Hopkins shouted at the victim, who then ran into an upstairs bedroom and shut the door, leaning up against the door to stop Hopkins from entering. Hopkins went upstairs and kicked the door open.
Hopkins grabbed the victim by the arm and demanded to know where he kept his computer. When the victim told Hopkins that he kept his computer in his home office, Hopkins forcibly moved the victim to the office. Hopkins ordered the victim to turn on his computer and connect to the Internet. Hopkins pulled out Adams’ demand note, which contained a series of directions on how to change an Internet domain name from the domain owner’s GoDaddy account to one of Adams’ GoDaddy accounts.
Hopkins put the firearm against the victim’s head and ordered him to follow the directions on the demand note. Hopkins then pistol whipped the victim several times in the head. Fearing for his life, the victim quickly turned to move the gun away from his head. The victim then managed to gain control of the gun, but during the struggle, he was shot in the leg. The victim shot Hopkins multiple times in the chest. He then contacted law enforcement.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN). PSN is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.
Sentencing before United States District Court Judge C.J. Williams will be set after a presentence report is prepared. Adams was taken into custody by the United States Marshal after the verdict was returned and will remain in custody pending sentencing. Adams faces a possible maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release following any imprisonment.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Timothy L. Vavricek and Matthew J. Cole and was investigated by the Cedar Rapids Police Department. Hopkins was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment in June 2018.
Court file information at https://ecf.iand.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl.
The case file number is 18-CR-86-CJW.
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