Greece sues owner of US VPN service over fraudulent user transactions *TorrentFreak
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The founder of Florida-based VPN company TorGuard is listed as the prime suspect in a Greek fraud case. Authorities hold Ben Van Pelt personally responsible for approximately €2,000 of attempted fraudulent transactions made by an anonymous user of the service. Van Pelt’s legal team says the incredible allegations and a potential five-year prison sentence are hard to justify.
Amid growing concerns about online privacy and security, VPN services have become increasingly popular in recent years.
Millions of people use VPNs to stay safe and prevent third parties from tracking their online activities. As with traditional ISPs, a subsection of these subscribers may be engaged in shady activities. This can create serious problems.
In the past, we have seen VPN services get sued for alleged hacking into their network. Those targets also included US VPN company Torguard, which settled a dispute out of court. However, things would soon go downhill.
Criminal prosecution in Greece
Earlier this year, TorGuardCommentThe owner of Ben Van Pelt has become the main target of a criminal investigation in Greece. In fact, someone used a stolen credit card through the VPN service, attempting to make online purchases of €126.25, €498.68, €0.67 and €1,400 from Greek businesses.
All of these transactions failed because the bank recognized that something was wrong. However, the owner of the card still filed a complaint and the Greek authorities took up the matter. Shortly after, a police investigation was opened to find the person responsible for the attempted scam.
This investigation eventually pointed to a shared IP address registered with TorGuard. In most cases, the trail would stop there because the VPN service has no logs to connect an IP address to a person. For the Greek authorities, the case was just beginning.
Authorities have identified Ben Van Pelt, which founded and owns Florida-based VPN service TorGuard, as the culprit. As such, he is now the prime suspect in a foreign criminal investigation, facing up to five years in prison.
Mr. Van Pelt hired a lawyer Alexis Anagnostakis to help him in this case. Speaking to TorrentFreak, the lawyer says it’s “incredible” that his client is being held personally liable for the fraudulent activity.
“The irregularities in the investigation are extremely difficult to substantiate and have led to an incredible charge against a businessman of integrity. There is no evidence that Mr. Van Pelt was personally involved in the alleged fraud or participated or was an accomplice,” notes Anagnostakis.
Anagnostakis is convinced that his client did nothing wrong and hopes that the authorities will soon realize this as well.
“As the lawyer defending Mr. Van Pelt, I believe that Mr. Van Pelt is manifestly innocent of the charges against him and should be fully acquitted by the Court for this reason.”
Disadvantage of transparency?
The criminal charges took Ben Van Pelt by surprise. Dealing with the uncertainty of a criminal trial in a foreign country is difficult, but the owner of Torguard plans to fight the case with every means at his disposal.
Van Pelt has always been transparent about the ownership of the VPN company because he wants people to trust the service. Despite the legal problems, this will not change.
“This is an unfortunate situation that can affect any business structured with full transparency of ownership. It is very frustrating to be falsely accused of something when there is a complete lack of factual evidence and a general misunderstanding of the technology involved,” Van Pelt told TorrentFreak.
“I have a new appreciation for the protections given to businesses and individuals globally, however, TorGuard will continue to operate seamlessly because trust is the cornerstone of our operations. If my customers are unsure with whom they do business, how can they trust me?”
Whether Van Pelt will be able to prove his innocence will become apparent next year. In February, the three-member court for misdemeanors in Athens will hear the case. Besides Greek lawyer Anagnostakis, the owner of TorGuard is also represented by former US prosecutor Vincent Citro.
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