In 2007, the Houston Press wrote about University of Houston student Cyrus Rafizadeh's online quest to prove that a major mortgage servicing company, Orix, fraudulently foreclosed on an apartment complex owned by his mother. Rafizadeh was so sure of this that he regularly uploaded thousands of pages' worth of Orix's documents to his website, www.predatorix.com.
Orix subsequently accused Rafizadeh and others of conspiring to libel the company, filing suit in a Dallas federal court. As the trial geared up last month, Rafizadeh told MSNBC that part of Orix's litigation strategy was to "Make a lie, see how far it gets you. If it works, great, lie again and point to the previous lie as foundation for the second lie. If it doesn't work, make a different lie."
It appears that whatever Orix's strategy was, it worked: the jury returned a verdict February 6 in Orix's favor while both Orix and Rafizadeh's family hammered out a confidential settlement.
Well - one part of the settlement apparently isn't confidential. The Predatorix site has now been replaced with a terse message from Rafizadeh: "All statements on predatorix.com, and on YouTube under the 'Predatorix' heading, regarding ORIX have turned out to be incorrect, and are hereby withdrawn and disavowed for all purposes. I apologize for any damage I may have caused by my statements."
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The jury was asked to decide if a handful of statements from Predatorix were libelous or not. Ones the jury found libelous included a statement that Predatorix was dedicated in part to tenants of apartment complexes whose mortgages were serviced by Orix. This included: "David Pena of Empire Center, Dallas, who died of a heart attack after this property was seized and Justin and Darren Ruffin, twin brothers that drowned in a seized apartment's pool."
Also found libelous were specific allegations of tax evasion, and an accusation of a "secret formation of partnerships by Orix principals." The jury awarded $12.5 million in damages - an award that was apparently rendered moot when the parties reached a settlement.
Orix attorney Greg May had no comments this morning. Hair Balls e-mailed Rafizadeh, and we'll update if and when we hear back.
-- Craig Malisow