He wanted to clean up his Google results.
A jewelry company executive has pleaded guilty in New York to a count of conspiracy to forge a federal judge’s signature.
Michael Arnstein, CEO of The Natural Sapphire Co. in Manhattan, was accused of forging a court order in an effort to prevent negative reviews about his business from coming up in Google search results.
Arnstein is set to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Andrew L. Carter Jr. on Jan. 16. The crime carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
"As he admitted today, Michael Arnstein exploited the authority of the federal judiciary in a blatantly criminal scheme," said acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim. "By forging court orders and the signature of a U.S. District Judge, Arnstein was able to effectively erase websites critical of Arnstein’s business from its search results. Now Arnstein awaits sentencing in the same court he impersonated."
Arnstein, 40, of Kailua, HI, "engaged in a brazen scheme to submit counterfeit federal court orders to Google, Inc." between February 2014 and February 2017, authorities said.
Following a lawsuit by Arnstein against a web designer named Prashant Telang, U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan had ordered that several dozen reviews be removed. Arnstein had argued that the reviews were bogus and had been posted as a result of a dispute he'd had with Telang and Telang's company, TransPacific Software, Courthouse News Service reported.
But soon, more of the reviews began to appear. And prosecutors say he used the legitimate court order to create new orders, complete with forged signature of the judge.
He then allegedly sent the fake orders to Google, requesting that the reviews be excluded from search results.
Read more from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York