BehindMLM is under threat (GSPartners & the NYSC)
I started BehindMLM almost fourteen years ago. Next April the site turns fifteen.
After seeing an ad on TV that looked suspicious, I published a “review” of it on my then personal blog. That took off and soon enough I had readers requesting reviews of other MLM companies.
I eventually realized I had to separate the MLM content from my “regular” posts. Thus BehindMLM’s website domain was registered on April 10th, 2010.
Over the next decade plus I would go on to publish over 9000 MLM related news articles and reviews. I don’t know for sure but I believe BehindMLM is the largest repository of written MLM related content on the internet.
What started off as a project to see how far I could push a website has turned into a career in consumer awareness.
There’s been lots to learn and often I’ve found myself in uncharted territory. A big part of that comes down to the nature of BehindMLM’s content.
While I might not have started out with the intent to spend as much time on it as I do, today BehindMLM primarily covers MLM related financial fraud.
This has been in response to the ever-growing threat to consumers, exponentially increased in magnitude by the rise of cryptocurrency fraud.
Where things can get dicey is BehindMLM operating well ahead of law enforcement and regulators. This is part of my work that I’ve had to learn how to navigate on the job, so to speak.
Sometimes I’ve gotten lucky with (often unintended) foresight. Other times mistakes have been made and learnt from. Covering the MLM industry at this level is receiving a constant barrage of curveballs.
For the most part I don’t really discuss this side of BehindMLM. My job is to provide consumers with the most accurate timely MLM related due-diligence I’m able to. This is and remains the primary objective.
Anything that comes up or interferes with this objective is dealt with as part of me running BehindMLM, but this doesn’t need to be shared.
At least that’s been the case up until now. Which brings us to Josip Heit’s retaliation against BehindMLM through ongoing abuse of US and international courts.
How did we get here?
If we factor in Karatbars which, at least as far as its cryptocurrency offering went, Josip Heit was heavily involved in, BehindMLM began reporting on this particular topic in April 2014.
Specific to Heit, BehindMLM published its original GSPartners review in February 2021. Since then we’ve published sixty-two GSPartners articles, documenting and reporting on ongoing fraudulent activity.
This didn’t go unnoticed by Heit, who originally brushed off our reporting as criminal conduct.
Realizing that wasn’t convincing, Heit next turned to the Ukraine courts to obtain an ex-parte order. I learned about the order in mid 2021, through Heit’s partners-in-crime in Germany, Irle Moser.
For those of you unfamiliar with legal terms, “ex-parte” means the proceedings were conducted without a responding party. In other words, there was no due process.
The Ukraine order, based on unchallenged false representations, banned access to BehindMLM’s coverage of GSPartners in the Ukraine.
Heit’s venue choice of Ukraine, unrelated to either GSPartners or BehindMLM, to target was ripe for lampooning – which we naturally did.
Perhaps realizing again that a ex-parte court order from Ukraine didn’t actually mean anything, Heit approached the German courts.
With the aid of Irle Moser, Heit once again initiated ex-parte proceedings. This time his target was Google, BehindMLM’s website hosting provider.
I can’t speak for Google’s legal team but they didn’t participate in the proceedings. This isn’t unusual, BehindMLM is just customer #blah to Google and they otherwise had no stake in the case.
What Heit did achieve though was ex-parte judgment in his favor. Google was ordered to pay €90,000 in legal costs and ordered to stop serving BehindMLM’s reporting on GSPartners to German residents.
One might have expected some level of due process from the German courts but, like in Ukraine, that didn’t take place.
Other than noting that law firms routinely threaten the media with the blessing of German courts, I’m not familiar with Germany’s legal system to offer any further insight here.
The outcome of the German court decision (which again I had no idea about until after the fact), resulted in the decision to block BehindMLM’s GSPartners coverage in Germany.
This wasn’t a decision taken lightly. I believe access to consumer awareness is a fundamental right and Heit’s actions obviously didn’t sit right with me.
On the other hand GSPartners, despite being domiciled as GSB Gold Standard Corporation AG in Dusseldorf, otherwise wasn’t active in Germany. This compromise allowed BehindMLM to continue raising consumer awareness in GSPartners’ core markets – namely the US.
And so that’s where Heit struck next.
Heit and his GSB Gold Standard Corporation AG shell company are represented by Daniel Podhaskie in the US.
Ironically, Podhaskie (right) cites “regulatory compliance” as a practice area on his Warren Law Group LLP bio.
Armed with his two ex-parte kangaroo court orders, Heit filed an ex-parte petition with the New York Supreme Court on December 20th, 2022.
The petition sought identifying information of BehindMLM owner(s), from both Google and GoDaddy. GoDaddy is the domain registrar of BehindMLM’s website domain.
Arguing that BehindMLM’s coverage of GSPartners was “defamatory and false”, Heit cited the German ex-parte order in his petition;
GSB has obtained injunctions in other courts against respondent Google requiring the Defamatory Statements be removed.
The German Court order specifically preclude Google from “claiming or disseminating and/or causing others to claim or disseminate” numerous false and defamatory statements about GSB on the BehindMLM website.
I learned of Heit’s shenanigans in New York in February 2023. Neither Google of GoDaddy made an appearance or responded to Heit’s petition (again, neither company has a direct interest in the proceedings), resulting in a default order issued on February 24th, 2023.
Heit publicising this order in non-contested proceedings as a “significant court victory” is how I learnt of the NYSC proceedings.
This was shortly after the order was issued. Thereafter it wasn’t until June 2023 that I received notification GoDaddy and Google had received the granted subpoenas.
This prompted me to engage local New York counsel, shortly after which a Motion to Quash was filed.
Noting Heit’s petition filings lacked any supporting evidence, our legal argument focused on that over going toe to toe with Heit’s unsubstantiated assertions.
Courts across the country have held that, without an adequate evidentiary showing that plaintiffs would succeed on their underlying claims, the First Amendment right to speak anonymously bars such discovery.
The petition contains only conclusory allegations and offers no evidence in support of plaintiff’s claims of falsity and of damage.
The petition does not append any proposed pleading.
The petition is merely a pro forma document which
(A) fails to set forth a copy of any proposed pleading;
(B) fails to provide any detailed breakdown of which statements are false and in what respect they are false;
(C) fails to provided any evidence that any of the facts alleged are false;
(D) contains no evidence indicating why a New York court would have jurisdiction over this anonymous poster or why venue in New York county would be proper;
(E) mixes together alleged opinions and hyperbole with non-derogatory statements of fact;
(F) appends a purported “verification” which (i) is unsworn, (ii) is not in legal form, (iii) does not specify that the signatory has personal knowledge, and (iv) states that the signer is outside the United States but does not say where;
(G) boasts of plaintiff’s “global reputation for integrity and transparency” but provides no evidence of same; and
(H) alleges that plaintiff has been damaged by the statements, but offers no evidence of same. GoDaddy.com, LLC (“GoDaddy”) has been served with a subpoena duces tecum, dated May 22, 2023, the response to which would disclose BehindMLM’s identity.
BehindMLM respectfully moves to quash the subpoena.
All in all Heit had two occasions to supplement his filings with supporting evidence. He failed to do so both times.
Plaintiff has still not been able to come up with a shred of evidence in support of its subpoena to deprive BehindMLM of her anonymity.
This motion gave plaintiff an excellent opportunity to come forward with the evidence it has, if any, showing that it actually does have a case.
It came forward with no evidence at all, from which it must be inferred that plaintiff has no evidence that any of movant’s statements were false or that they caused plaintiff any cognizable damage.
There is no evidence of any defamatory false statement of fact, no evidence of falsity of any statement of fact, and no evidence of damages resulting from any defamatory statement of fact.
In fact, no evidence at all is submitted.
Plaintiff rests upon its attorneys’ memorandum of law, which is not evidence and which relies upon nonsensical arguments that BehindMLM should be bound by a decision in Germany to which he was not a party, and this Court’s determination of the unopposed motion for ex parte discovery, again to which she was not a party.
These arguments, if accepted, would stand due process on its head.
The above is from our final filing, made on September 13th, 2023.
On November 1st, Judge J. Machelle Sweeting (right) issued a four-page order;
This court has reviewed the record, including the preliminary injunctions against respondent Google dated March 22, 2022, and August 17, 2022 issued by the Regional Court of Hamburg.
The Record shows that a court has already determined that the statements made are defamatory per se; thus they are not subject to protection and anonymity under the First Amendment.
I don’t know if Judge Sweeting actually read the German court order, but if she did she should have seen that it specifically stated;
As the respondent did not react to concrete complaint by the applicants … it must be assumed that the statements that the applicants operate a “Ponzi scheme” must be untrue.
To drive home a point:
- Josip Heit secured an ex-parte order in Ukraine, prohibiting publication of BehindMLM’s GSPartners coverage nationally.
- Heit took the Ukraine ex-parte order and filed uncontested ex-parte proceedings in Germany against Google.
- Google didn’t respond to the proceedings, resulting in another ex-parte order.
- Heit took the German ex-parte order, which assumed his filed false statements and representations were true based on Google not making an appearance in the case, and used it as the basis of a petition filed in the New York Supreme Court (NYSC).
- The NYSC denied BehindMLM (who has not been a party in any proceedings), due process and its First Amendment right based on the German ex-parte court order.
In running BehindMLM I’ve found myself in some strange positions before but this absolutely takes the cake.
BehindMLM is being denied constitutional rights in the US because Google failed to make an appearance in a German court case, that BehindMLM itself was not a party to (or even knew about till after the fact), resulting in an assumptive order not supported by any evidence.
Courts aside, while all of this has been going on GSPartners has received multiple securities fraud warnings from Canada – certifying fraudulent conduct Heit has represented to the NYSC that GSPartners is not engaged in.
Furthermore, as of earlier today, BehindMLM publicly confirmed GSPartners and Heit are under federal regulatory investigation in the US.
Needless to say we’re in the process of organizing an appeal against Judge Sweeting’s order.
What is the threat to BehindMLM?
Heit’s escapades in the NYSC amount to a fishing expedition. The goal is to obtain personally identifying information – but not for the stated purpose of pursuing legal action.
In light of one being able to…
- demonstrate GSPartners is committing securities fraud in violation of the Securities and Exchange Act;
- demonstrate GSPartners is committing commodities fraud in violation of the Commodities Act;
- cite no less than seven regulatory GSPartners securities fraud warnings from Canada; and
- produce communications between myself and US regulators confirming multiple ongoing US regulatory investigations into GSPartners for fraud
…taking further legal action would be pointless.
This brings us to GSPartners and Josip Heit’s ties to organized crime in Europe.
The full extent of commingling between GSPartners and organized crime is beyond my capability as a civilian investigative journalist to ascertain.
What I can do though is provide some insight, through Josip Heit’s personal relationship with Alex Bodi.
Bodi is a well-known Romanian underworld crime figure. His father is Adrian Tamplaru, the former lieutenant of Romanian mafia don Ion Clămparu.
Clămparu was part of a group of 450 organized crime figures charged with “murder, child abuse, human trafficking, and money laundering”. He was sentenced to thirty years in prison by a Spanish court in 2012.
In Romania, Alex Bodi and Tamplaru were charged with and arrested for similar crimes in 2020.
As reported by NewsWeek in 2022;
After Clamparu was arrested, Tâmplaru opened his own network of human trafficking and pimping, and one of his lieutenants is Alex Bodi, his son.
Tâmplaru and Bodi have been arrested since last year following one of the most extensive DIICOT actions in recent years.
While under house arrest, Bodi met with leaders of the Carani Clan, a group within the Romanian mafia.
According to the indictment, the leaders of the network led by Tâmplaru were in a relationship with the “Hells Angels” group, an international organized crime group, specialized in trafficking in people, drugs, weapons, assassinations and other violent crimes.
NewsWeek goes on to detail the extent of Tamplaru’s criminal enterprise;
Young women, some minors, were trafficked all over Europe and even in Dubai “Some victims were sold to other traffickers, for the purpose of exploitation. (…)
There were also situations in which the perpetrators were no longer able to control the victims, even after applying physical corrections, in which case, in order to make them not run away or return to the country, they demanded different amounts of money, which the victims did not have the opportunity to pay, being, thus, obliged to continue the prostitution activity for their benefit.
In some cases, the members of the criminal group married their victims in order to be more convincing in the criminal approach and to control them completely”, the indictment states.
One of the victims of the pimp network is from the city of Târgu Jiu and was recruited using the “loverboy” method.
The young woman was even married to the one who sexually exploited her for four years. This period was a real ordeal.
“The defendant forced her (threatened her with acts of violence and beat her with the telephone cable) to go to Germany to become a prostitute for his benefit, although the victim had no intention of leaving the country.
She was frequently beaten by the defendant, who reproached her for not making enough money, while others made millions of euros from such activities.
There were situations when he threatened her with a gun to the temple, cut her with a knife on her arms, legs, thigh”, the investigators mention.
The young woman had a “target” and was beaten if she did not achieve it. In 2015, the victim returned home because her mother had cancer.
The pimp threatened her in every way to return to him: he threw a calf’s head over the fence, threw stones at night, sent her photos of him holding a bottle of gasoline.
The young woman was assaulted by the pimp and had to go to the hospital due to her injuries, eventually having to go to Germany again and work as a prostitute, where she was also constantly assaulted.
Together with a man with a tattoo in the area of the right eye and another bald man, they took her to the bedroom, where there was a large bed with iron bars.
The defendant beat her with his fists and feet, threatening her with death and telling her that he was the master of her life.
The injured person was tied up and forced to have sexual relations with the three defendants.
The man with the tattoo in the right eye area untied her and punched her until she passed out, then took her to the bathroom and put her head in the toilet bowl.
Another man filled the bathtub, and the defendant put her head in the water, holding her for a while, after which he threatened her with death and acts of violence against family members, continuing to put her head in the water.
Next, the defendant took her to the bedroom and called the men who were in the apartment to have sex. Some were photographing her, standing in front of the door and laughing.
One of the men, whom she found out was doing tattoos, injected her with a substance, possibly heroin”, the indictments state.
Bodi has since been released and, as I understand it, spends his time between Dubai and Romania.
The case against Bodi and his father remains pending. Heit’s personal involvement in Bodi’s alleged criminal activities is unclear.
At least for some time during the period of alleged crimes in Bodi’s indictment, he and Heit shared an apartment in Romania.
On social media Heit refers to Bodi as a “brother for life”.
Mister Helmet cites Heit and Alex Bodi as co-founders of Karatbars International, dating back to 2011.
Romanian media cite Bodi as a business partner of Heit’s, I’ve also seen him cited as a GSB shareholder.
And Bodi regularly attends GSPartners marketing events in Dubai.
Bodi’s exact role in Heit’s fraudulent investment schemes has never been officially disclosed, or even acknowledged.
Getting back to Heit’s NYSC petition, should he succeed, there’s every possibility Heit intends to pass on information obtained to accomplices in the Romanian mafia.
I’m in direct contact with federal US law enforcement and they are aware and have been briefed on the matter. As have both the SEC and CFTC.
Generally speaking targeting consumer awareness publications has been frowned upon by US regulators.
Specific to BehindMLM, OnPassive’s attempts to undermine our reporting, through a spoof website and social media profiles, was cited by the SEC in their recent $108 million securities fraud lawsuit.
A party with ties to organized crime hounding BehindMLM through the NYSC under false pretenses though, is certainly an escalation.
Why is BehindMLM publishing this information now?
Ideally Judge Sweeting would have granted BehindMLM’s motion to quash, I wouldn’t have had to prematurely disclose the US GSPartners investigations and, in due time, civil GSPartners fraud lawsuits and (unconfirmed) indictments would have dropped.
Instead things are messy. But I’m doing my best to navigate unfamiliar waters.
Have you ever read a news story and been left with unanswered questions? Should something happen to BehindMLM and myself as a result of all this, I didn’t want that to be the case.
If something happens, I don’t want there to be any uncertainty as to what’s happened, who’s involved, what role they played and who’s responsible.
BehindMLM receives 10,000 to 20,000 visitors a day on average. This is a public paper trail documenting exactly how we got here and why.
Beyond some things related to investigations which I still can’t disclose, with respect to GSPartners and Josip Heit you otherwise now know what I know.
What happens next?
Our immediate concern is filing an appeal against Judge Sweeting’s order. Beyond that, I honestly don’t know.
Anything I can update I’ll be sure to do at the end of this article and make a comment noting it.
As for concerns about my personal safety, I have done what I can.
I might miss a day or two here and there but otherwise BehindMLM has a pretty consistent publishing schedule. I don’t foresee any interruptions.
If I stop posting and BehindMLM’s content dries up without warning, assume the worst.
If it’s particularly gruesome someone might pick it up in the news. I know that sounds macabre, but it happens.
I’m not so naive to think that BehindMLM would continue forever, but fourteen years is a pretty good run. Ditto on the personal risk I take, waking up each day and researching and writing about criminals who’d rather operate in secret.
As long as I’m able to, I intend to keep BehindMLM running. Accurate and timely consumer awareness is lacking online and I think this is one of the best ways I can combat it.
Directly or indirectly, BehindMLM has fingerprints on pretty much every major MLM securities, commodities and/or wire fraud bust over the past decade.
I keep a list of names we’ve helped send to prison. And while that specifically is not something I prioritize or directly work towards, it’s still personally a point of professional pride.
A few years ago I realized that, with the rise of cryptocurrency fraud, it was easier than ever for scammers to steal large amounts of money in a short amount of time. Fractions of a percent of misappropriated funds could then be directed to threaten BehindMLM.
Due to the nature of our reporting, this could happen well before authorities move in. One could argue that’s the case with GSPartners.
Up until now the threat of appearing on US law enforcement’s radar appears to have been a significant deterrent to scammers seeking retaliation against BehindMLM. Whether Heit was ignorant of that risk when he filed in NYSC or is too egotistical to care, who knows.
Either way, Heit and Daniel Podhaskie have now inadvertently given US law enforcement and regulators additional ammunition.
Back to the growing threat, to combat it I implemented a series of initiatives on my end. We’re not quite there yet but eventually the idea is to make BehindMLM immune to such targeting – or at least be able to combat it with minimal interruption to my day to day work.
On a somewhat related note a few weeks back Google sent me an email advising BehindMLM had been approved for “Reader Revenue Manager”. This isn’t something I’d applied for and came out of the blue.
In short it’s a reader contribution system, not unlike what you find on YouTube and other content creation platforms. Options are preset single donations or a monthly subscription (set in USD).
At the core of this Reader Revenue Manager is an annoying popup that I’ve seen in action. I can’t seem to disable that completely but I’ve set it to the minimum (apparently 5 to 7 website visits).
What I’d ideally just have is the button at the end of every article. I’m not 100% on keeping this system active if the popup starts going crazy. That’s obviously a bad user experience and, basic as it is, BehindMLM is built with user experience first in mind.
Note this is just for people who want to support BehindMLM. A few times a month I’ll have a reader or two ask about financially contributing and up until now I’ve always politely declined.
I want to be clear about there not being any specific benefits or perks to contributing (other than helping keep BehindMLM going). This system won’t have any effect on BehindMLM’s publishing schedule or content availability.
It’s also not something I’m going to pitch or nag about. Like our email subscription service, it’s just an option that’s there. If everything goes well I’ll never mention it again.
Apologies in advance if it breaks anything, please let me know!
As for personal information, Google collects email addresses but, again like our email subscription service, this list isn’t anything I’ll ever do anything with.
Some of you have been subscribed via email to BehindMLM for over ten years. In that time I’ve never used supplied email addresses for anything. And that’s never changing.
Sorry for the length of the article. This was a complicated issue to cover and I had to address some of the misinformation GSPartners had been spreading. Hopefully I’ve laid everything out clearly enough.