Federal Jury Finds a Previously Convicted Black Hat Search Engine Optimizer Guilty of Retaliating Against His Former Victim
DALLAS — William Laurence Stanley, 53, a self-proclaimed black hat search engine optimizer and reputation manager, was found guilty yesterday following a five-day trial before U.S. District Judge Sidney A. Fitzwater for retaliating against a victim for providing truthful information to law enforcement about Stanley’s prior commission of a federal offense, that being extortion, announced U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas.
Stanley was convicted of one count of retaliation. He faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. Stanley has been in custody on the retaliation charge since his arrest in November 2016. Sentencing is set for August 4, 2017 at 9:00am.
Stanley was previously sentenced in January 2016 to 37 months in federal prison for extorting money from a Dallas-based business (victim Company) and ordered to pay $174,888 in restitution to the numerous victims of his extortive conduct in U.S. v. William Laurence Stanley, 3:14-CR-113-N. In December 2016, Stanley was indicted for retaliating against the principle victim in the 2014 case.
According to evidence presented at trial, Stanley began planning his retaliation while serving his prison sentence on the extortion conviction. From at least September 6 through sometime in October 2016, Stanley, knowingly and with the intent to retaliate against a person for providing law enforcement information about the commission of a federal offense, posted false or derogatory comments or reviews online about the victim Company.
Stanley first extorted the victim Company in 2009 and 2010, and received a final bulk payment of approximately $80,000 from the victim company to stop the harassment and go away. Stanley reappeared in December 2013, and began extorting the company a second time, this time demanding a payment of approximately $30,000. In December 2013 through February 2014, Stanley and his sister, Lynn Faust harassed the victim Company by emails and on the telephone, threatening to ruin the reputation of the victim Company if it did not pay the extortion fee. Stanley threatened to post negative things online about the victim Company that had the potential to cause significant revenue losses. Stanley’s search engine optimization skills threatened to cause any items he posted online to rank high on the various search engines. During the early stages of the extortion in 2014, the victim Company notified the FBI in Dallas, which opened an investigation. Several victim Company officers and employees subsequently provided truthful information to the FBI regarding Stanley’s commission of a federal offense – the offense to which he ultimately pled guilty in July 2015.
In early August 2016, Stanley was transferred by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to a halfway house in Houston. In early September 2016, the BOP placed Stanley on home confinement at his daughter’s residence in Angleton, Texas.
Between September 8, 2016 and October 10, 2016 , Stanley posted derogatory online articles/blogs/complaints intended to portray the victim Company in a negative light. Stanley posted the retaliatory data on Facebook.com, Glassdoor.com, ShaggyTexas.com, 800notes.com, callsreceived.com, Yelp.com, Blogspot.com, and Wordpress.com. Several of the articles/blogs/complaints had titles and photographs added to place the victim Company in an even more negative light. Stanley also encouraged others to duplicate the negative content in as many places as possible.
Stanley attempted to claim that the First Amendment protected his postings. The court instructed the jury that “[e]xpression is not protected by the First Amendment if the speaker intends his words to become, and the tendency of his words do become, an integral part of conduct that violates a valid criminal statute.” Evidence during the trial established that the victim Company’s reputation is based on the hard work, integrity, and dedication of more than hundreds of associates nationwide. The victim Company repeatedly earns and receives top honors and awards in its industry, and Stanley’s retaliatory conduct caused extensive harm to its reputation.
The FBI investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys C.S. Heath and Sid Mody are in charge of the prosecution.
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