redux: More in this week’s Chron column

sexdotcom.jpgAfter all the attention it got, I took the post I did on the newest development (shooting of Mexican lawyer “The Toad”) and dug into the whole story, simply excited to get a chance to tell it featuring the bizarre details that I think make the saga so freakily fascinating. I was also thrilled to finally illustrate the kind of sleazy URL hustlers and startup sleazebags that are oh-so-common around these parts. Check out A URL — All Crime And No Sex for a lurid read. Snip:

“Like mobile-home scammers in Florida and billboard plastic surgeons in Los Angeles, URL grifters are part of the sleazy yet entertaining Bay Area tech-industry zoo. And so when a guy like Gary Kremen snags URLs like and and dabbles in brokering far-reaching Web page patents and “Internet consulting” while (according to a 2005 CNN interview) working on a nice speed habit, he just sort of blends in with the rest of the money-grubbing, VC-chasing dot-com herd. Like most startup cowboys, Kremen sat on the URL as an undeveloped property — until a con man named Stephen M. Cohen came along and swindled VeriSign/Network Solutions out of with fast talk and forgeries.

High school could not have been a kind experience for Cohen. A fairly unremarkable-looking man (when last seen by authorities upon release from a Tijuana prison two weeks ago), he attended Van Nuys High, whose alumni include Paula Abdul and Robert Redford. Maybe that’s what gave him an unquenchable thirst for fame and fortune, the kind that makes one think that crime is a perfectly acceptable means to success.

As if he were spending his life getting ready for the dot-com boom, Cohen amassed a history of odd jobs, including operating an old-fashioned cord-board telephone answering service in the early 1980s and a stint posing as a bankruptcy lawyer that landed him two years in the federal clink. Cohen next found his calling in the heyday of the Bay Area’s mid-’90s Internet Wild West, grabbing in 1995 after wearing down Network Solutions employees with a barrage of phone calls and one (delightfully retro) forged document.” Link.

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