Not too long ago I received a surprising letter in relation to a post that I made six years ago. Yes, you heard me right. The letter came from a law firm representing a man named Robert Zoost and for the most part it seemed like it was a cease and desist letter. The post it was referring to is located here at http://www.al6400.com/blog/2008/05/11/millionaire-image-at-the-expense-of-others/
Just as a background story to this, essentially there was an article in the local newspaper here where a person named David Baine of the Vancouver Sun did an exposé on this Robert Zoost person who was a realtor in Kelowna which you can read here at: http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/business/story.html?id=34e3076a-9709-48e0-8595-35f6672f421f
Reading that article made me want to comment about money and the wealthy image that many people often portray in general. So sure enough that is what I did. Now as far as I know, since then this Robert Zoost person lost his realtor license and it was essentially yesterday’s news where an average person like myself never bothered to follow up.
So you can imagine my surprise when I got that letter as I think any person would ask themselves “Why now all of a sudden?” To me, the timing and motive of this threat was very suspicious. If you think about it too, why not go after the newspaper organization that actually did the exposé on him as opposed to the little guys who are simply making commentary remarks? Here are some snippets of the letter their lawyer sent me:
To me, I did nothing wrong and so I will deal with it as professionally as possible while protecting my rights. At the same time taking it seriously. I did what I thought was the best thing to do first and that was consulting with a lawyer.
For my post, as you can see it’s like they are trying to imply it was specifically targeting this Zoost guy to harm him in a negative way. A very ludicrous statement, in my opinion, which I can only personally describe as desperate and misguided. This is where it got interesting as in their letter they seem to focus heavily in the user comments. Some of the comments stated things such as how he is apparently going by the name of Robert Ronning and what company he is affiliated with. As well, some people had some colorful words about him.
Based on the legal advice I received, in general everything I wrote falls under a “fair comment” category and apparently there are laws to protect people in having discussions in a public manner in regards to topics that are of a public interest. However, even if a person does not have a case one could still theoretically try to harass and financially bully a person like myself behind of the use of lawyers.
For example, I was reading about cases dubbed as a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) where the goal isn’t necessarily to win a case but rather to drag a person into the financially draining legal system. The thought of having to hire and pay a lawyer to defend you costs so much money that an average person is intimidated and bullied into simply having to give in as proving the truth out of principles costs a lot of time and money based on the way the system is.
So in the end, as much as I want to stand up for the public’s right to free speech I have to approach this in the best way possible to protect myself. As mentioned too, it wasn’t so much my post itself it seemed as opposed to the user comments that they seemed mostly focused on. As an example, in the end here are some snippets of parts my lawyer sent them:
So obviously this isn’t over yet. Again though, it really makes me wonder why did this guy just pop out now and why me? Let’s start the fact digging. I remember in the Vancouver Sun article Zoost apparently had a few civil court cases. So upon research I saw this:
Based on these records, shortly after that article came out it seems like he had an issue with a guy named Mark Macdonald on September, 2010. You can then see not too long after it seemed like he filed for bankruptcy on November 8, 2010. Okay, that’s interesting. To verify that, this is the bankruptcy report:
As stated here, back then he had $93,460 in liabilities and $700 in assets. Start of a new life I suppose? I couldn’t find anything else on Robert Zoost afterwards. However, going back to my reader comments one person claimed that he was now going by the name of Robert Ronning and was in the payment processing industry. This started to open up new light as I did my research.
I first found this listing on the Prince George Chamber of commerce site:
As you can see, here there is a Robert Ronning who was affiliated with a company called Federated Payments Canada and the advertisement seemed like it was attempting to recruit people for a position of “Merchant Services Adviser.” Upon further research, I found a document published by the British Columbia Hotel Association. This was apparently its 2013 buyer’s guide and here it listed “Robert Ronning” as “President & CEO” of a company called “Dominion Card Services.”
This then led me to read comments from a few disgruntled customers and from the sounds of it sales reps from the company as you can see here:
My search seemed to have dried up for the most part afterwards as I assume he was no longer affiliated with Dominion card services for whatever reason. Remembering the comments from my readers though, apparently he was affiliated with a company called Payvida. I tried to search for records of this and for the most part the corporate website didn’t appear to make any reference to him. I did however find this Facebook page that was out there publicly:
Based on the photo and other information I believe I found the same guy and here it does list him as the “President/CEO At Payvida Solutions.” The weird thing here? His name is published as “Robert Raymond.” The page appeared to have been updated back in April 14 of this year. I still find it weird that I couldn’t find any corporate references to his affiliation with the company though. But if anything, at least this was recent and gave me a better insight as to what may have potentially happened recently for him to all of a sudden feel that my blog post was so important for him to try and take down.
The only other thing I now knew was that his name could be referenced as Zoost, Ronning or Raymond. With that in mind, the only other information I was able to find was if you search the court records under the “Traffic/Criminal” category you see that recently he finished a proceeding for “CCC – 264 Criminal Harassment.”
I’m no police officer and am not knowledgeable about what exactly these cases are about and whether or not they are serious. But for me I fail to see as of now how all this leads to Robert Zoost, Robert Ronning or Robert Raymond trying to come after me. The trail to uncover the story is there, but I suppose this requires everyone and anyone who has experience with the guy to factually tell the world with proof on what the heck went on in all these instances for him to come into my life.
For me as a blogger too, this is the best way I think for me to protect myself where even if I do continually get swarmed by all these legal documentations for what I feel may be an attempt to bully me, the more people willing to come forward and shed some light into this situation the better.
How many other people were sent these letters for example? It’s kind of sad to think about too where everyday people need to use their wallets to defend legitimate free speech and it would be sad if this type of letter was sent to more people who were simply forced to financially give up. I am interested in trying this as a social experiment where my way of handling this claim is by seeking out the truth and wondering how much of this story can be unlocked with the help of the public and the Internet. It may also demonstrate how important open free speech is in connecting people to openly engage in public issues that can be affecting someone you know.
I am just one guy of course. E-mail share, Facebook share, Tweet or any other method of sharing this post if you know someone that can help fit the pieces into the puzzle as to me there has to be more to this story. This is probably the more frugal way of finding out what the truth is too. Remember to be able to back up your facts too and avoid any mudslinging comments as I will be monitoring this closely.
As a side note, why would anyone think it is a good idea in this case to simply send lawyers if the person in question claims that something is inaccurate? Isn’t it better for the person to talk to like say myself directly while providing their side of the story of what the claimed truth is? In my opinion, getting lawyers involved should be the last resort. But who knows. Again, maybe there is more to this story which can be fully and accurately unravelled if enough people are willing to come forward.