“I’m not as cold-blooded as you people. I sent her a $1 gift certificate from Burger King, were [sic] Sundays are home of the 99-cent Whopper! So she gets a last meal and a cent for her defense,” posted a “Bommer.”
Were the FReeper postings idle fantasies or a call to action? Steele’s Webmaster, John Hennessey, says her site was barraged with hundreds of bogus donations charged to fake credit-card numbers; Steele had to pay her Web e-commerce servicer, Michigan-based E-Z Merchant Accounts, 25 to 35 cents to process each “contribution.”
“Julie’s site took in about $1,550,” says Hennessey. “The fake charges cost around $4,000.”
Of course, it’s illegal to use a fake credit-card number. The federal wire-fraud statute forbids “any scheme or artifice to defraud . . . or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises . . . transmitted by means of wire, radio or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce.” “Scheme” is further defined as a plot to “deprive another of the intangible right of honest services.” But the FBI is unlikely to go after a case encompassing $4,000 in damages, an agency spokesman says.
“Steele’s site is liable for the charges if said charges are off bogus cards or numbers,” says E-Z Merchant owner Barry Peterson.
FreeRepublic officials deny any knowledge of the Steele postings.
“I can’t keep track of everything here,” says Jim Robinson, the site’s Webmaster. The Steele postings are no longer on the site, however. And FreeRepublic knows that postings can get them into trouble. The site was sued by both the L.A. Times and the Washington Post for posting articles without paying for them. The site also took down death threats (aimed at the Clintons) that resulted in one FReeper’s being detained by the Secret Service.
Meanwhile, Steele can’t find a job in ultraconservative Richmond, Virginia, she says. “Even the Virginia Democratic Party said I was too hot for them,” says Steele. Her credit cards and cash and check donations are keeping her head above water, Steele adds. But the former Republican voter says she has learned a lesson.
“I used to think that it wasn’t that important who you voted for,” says Steele. “I’ll never make that mistake again!”