A message board poster who goes by the alias "Pluvia" was particularly confident last Wednesday, telling readers of
boards that a federal lawsuit against him by the
"Here's an interesting
end to the SBTK story," Pluvia wrote.
But the truth of that statement is as murky as everything else on message boards, including the real identity of the person known as Pluvia. The best bet is on a man named Steven Alan Keyser.
Whoever Pluvia is, it now appears that this lionized character in the Internet's bulletin board subculture is on the run from Sabratek attorneys, the
Internal Revenue Service
and Nevada law enforcement authorities, who have a warrant out for "Pluvia's" arrest, according to court documents.
Lawyers for Sabratek said Keyser disappeared last August before they could serve him with a lawsuit charging that he disparaged Sabratek on the Internet bulletin boards as Pluvia, while holding a short position that would make him money if Sabratek's stock price fell.
Last week, though, Judge Harold Baer, in the
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York
, ruled that if Sabratek doesn't find Pluvia and serve him by May 15, Pluvia's name will have to be dropped from the suit.
"We'll see if we can find him," Sabratek's New York lawyer, Stu Jackson, said Thursday. "He is hiding out someplace." Jackson said the company will hire private investigators to root Pluvia out.
"Come and serve us," taunted a man responding by telephone to an email message from
to the Pluvia email address.
The man wouldn't say what his real name was, except that he's not Steven Keyser. And he says Pluvia -- Latin for "rain" -- is actually several different people who share the password and post under that alias on Internet message boards such as Silicon Investor,
The caller, who meticulously refers to himself as "we," said those behind Pluvia want to maintain their anonymity because they've received death threats and threats of lawsuits over their
"Who we are is absolutely irrelevant," he said. "Pluvia's not the issue here. The quality of the research is. Our objective is to publish truthful research."
Periodically, Pluvia posts research, like this
Terayon Communication Systems
Terayon had no comment on Pluvia.
The caller claiming to be Pluvia said he doesn't know Keyser's whereabouts now. But he did know Sabratek hadn't been able to find Keyser and serve him with the suit.
Geoffrey Potter, a lawyer with the New York law firm
Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel
, said there's no doubt who Pluvia really is, and no doubt he's had trouble with the law.
Potter represented Sabratek last year and filed the federal suit against Pluvia. Investigators hired by Potter's firm to find Pluvia wound up in Las Vegas -- hot on Keyser's trail.
They also discovered Keyser's other legal troubles.
The paper trail showed Keyser has a record that includes
Securities and Exchange Commission
sanctions in 1987, a shoplifting conviction in 1993 and a guilty plea to providing false information to police in Las Vegas Township.
The investigators also found the Internal Revenue Service has a $126,000 tax lien against Keyser and he faces an outstanding arrest warrant in Clark County, Nevada.
Potter spelled that history out in the lawsuit against Keyser.
But when Sabratek tried to serve Keyser with the suit last year in Las Vegas, it found Keyser had rented a truck, packed up his apartment and fled.
A business-wire story about the suit's filing had provided a tip on Keyser's whereabouts, Potter said. "He disappeared in the middle of the night," Potter said.
But Sabratek, an Illinois medical devices company, filed for bankruptcy protection last December, and the firm put its search for Pluvia on the back burner, Potter said.
When asked to respond to the allegations Sabratek made about Pluvia/Keyser in its defamation lawsuit, the caller claiming to be Pluvia said: "Pluvia is not Steve Keyser. Whatever that guy does, we don't care."
Sabratek had its own share of troubles leading up to the bankruptcy filing. Last year, it disclosed to the SEC that its financial statements for the last three years could not be relied on.
Also last year, shareholders filed several class-action lawsuits against the firm, charging that it violated securities laws by inaccurately reporting its financial condition. Those suits are pending.
Whoever Pluvia is, his (or her) Web persona has gained no small share of notoriety among message board aficionados in recent years.
"People don't like him," said Floyd Schneider, a frequent board poster who works under the alias "TheTruthseeker." "The guy is posting facts. The ones he's come out and said are fraudulent, he's been proven right every time."
Recently, Pluvia took on
The SEC in March charged eConnect with issuing false press releases about its wireless Internet technology.
The SEC wouldn't comment about Pluvia directly, but has a team of 240 lawyers that monitors computer message boards and other Internet activities for online securities fraud, said spokesman Chris Ullman.
In recent months, the SEC has sued a Los Angeles tree trimmer who posted fake press releases about eConnect and, with subpoena power, it can force the operator of the board to release the identity of its posters. "We've had excellent success in finding anyone we've needed to find," Ullman said.
The caller who claims to be Pluvia begs to differ. "No one will ever find out who we are," he said.