Michael Arnstein ran a gemstone and jewelry business in Manhattan. He was irked by a number of negative online reviews. So, what did he do? He fired up Photoshop. Between 2014 and 2017, Arnstein forged over ten court orders that he submitted to Google to de-index pages with unsavory comments of his business.
He actually succeeded early on with what was a bona fide court order to take down 54 URLs. That order was signed by Judge Alison Nathan in 2012. But, then Arnstein took a short cut.
In a note to his friend:
“[N]o bullshit: if I could do it all over again I would have found another court order injunction for removal of links (probably something that can be found online pretty easily) made changes in photoshop to show the links that I wanted removed and then sent to ‘email@example.com’ as a pdf – showing the court order docket number, the judges [sic] signature – but with the new links put in,” he wrote.
“Google isn’t checking this stuff; that’s the bottom line b/c I spent $30,000 f****n thousand dollars and nearly 2 f***n years to do what legit could have been done for about 6 hours of searching and photoshop by a guy for $200., all in ONE DAY ….”
To make his work appear legitimate, he had to forge the signature of a judge. A big no no.
“Michael Arnstein’s blatant criminal scheme to exploit the authority of the federal judiciary for his company’s benefit was outrageous,” US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said at sentencing.
“As Arnstein has learned, his attempts to remove negative reviews about his business from Google search results by forging a US District Court judge’s signature may have worked in the short term, but it also earned him nine months in a federal prison.”
Once out of prison, he will have to serve two years of supervised release.
And Arnstein had to pay a $20k fine.
Google indexes all types of documents, including public legal documents. Google must have wondered why it could not find the public legal document Arnstein was using to mandate action.
Arnstein is also an ultramarathon runner. If you do a Google search of his name, half the results on page one are about his athletic feats. The other half are about his impending prison term.
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said:
“Arnstein’s attempts to remove any trace of unfavorable information about his business posted online sent him down a slippery slope. Not only did he commit a federal crime by forging a judge’s signature in furtherance of his scheme, but he now finds himself back on the Internet. This time, however, it’s a story no search engine can erase.”
In the Marriage of Heaven and Hell, William Blake wrote: The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. Arnstein probably had a different idea of palace when he took his less traveled road.
In the event a patient posts negative sentiment online, do the following – first, don’t panic. The public doesn’t expect perfection. The occasional negative review is not a career ender. On the contrary, they can make positive patient sentiment appear more genuine. Secondly – formulate a strategy. Mastering the online review space is challenging. Aligning yourself with a trusted partner reduces risk – and improves outcomes. Medical Justice has developed a program that captures patient feedback (in the office / at the point of service) and uploads it to the internet.
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Jeffrey Segal, MD, JD, FACS
Chief Executive Officer and Founder
Dr. Jeffrey Segal, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Medical Justice, is a board-certified neurosurgeon. Dr. Segal is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons; the American College of Legal Medicine; and the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. He is also a member of the North American Spine Society. In the process of conceiving, funding, developing, and growing Medical Justice, Dr. Segal has established himself as one of the country’s leading authorities on medical malpractice issues, counterclaims, and internet-based assaults on reputation.
Dr. Segal was a practicing neurosurgeon for approximately ten years, during which time he also played an active role as a participant on various state-sanctioned medical review panels designed to decrease the incidence of meritless medical malpractice cases.
Dr. Segal holds a M.D. from Baylor College of Medicine, where he also completed a neurosurgical residency. Dr. Segal served as a Spinal Surgery Fellow at The University of South Florida Medical School. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa as well as the AOA Medical Honor Society. Dr. Segal received his B.A. from the University of Texas and graduated with a J.D. from Concord Law School with highest honors.
In 2000, he co-founded and served as CEO of DarPharma, Inc, a biotechnology company in Chapel Hill, NC, focused on the discovery and development of first-of-class pharmaceuticals for neuropsychiatric disorders.
Dr. Segal is also a partner at Byrd Adatto, a national business and health care law firm. With over 50 combined years of experience in serving doctors, dentists, and other providers, Byrd Adatto has a national pedigree to address most legal issues that arise in the business and practice of medicine.