Michael Roberts is the Founder of Rexxfield, a company that assists and supports individuals who have been the victims of online lies, defamation, and privacy invasion by “rendering all reasonable assistance in order to have deceptive materials retracted or hidden from the public domain and the victims’ good name and reputation restored.”
He understands first-hand what being a victim feels like, having been on the receiving end of character assassination and defamatory attacks by his ex-wife, who is now in prison for a murder conviction, and others associated with her case or seeking to capitalize upon it.
CiviliNation: Tell us about your company Rexxfield and what let to its creation.
Michael Roberts: To understand why Rexxfield was created, you first need to understand what happened in my personal life, which is a long, convoluted and incredibly complicated story.
In December 2000, my now ex-wife Tracey Richter murdered 20-year-old Dustin Wehde in what was described by one prosecutor as an execution-style killing . She claimed self-defense, and despite contradictions in her testimony and evidence to the contrary, I believed her – perhaps because at the time I couldn’t emotionally fathom the fact that she actually murdered someone in cold blood. Then in early 2004, after I discovered her affair with another man, she attempted to kill me, first by drugging me and then, when I was semiconscious, by suffocating me. By the grace of God I survived the ordeal but to this day I’m still struggling from the injuries sustained from the attempt on my life. Thankfully, the Iowa Department of Justice, crime victims compensation fund paid for my associated medical expenses.
I finally wised up, saw her for the person she really is, and filed for divorce. But notwithstanding the evidence that she had killed one man and attempted to murder another, the Family Court judge in the subsequent divorce case gave primary care of our children to my ex-wife time and time again. This just goes to show that domestic relations courts are seriously flawed and that some judges make highly questionable decisions that have serious and negative repercussions on innocent lives.
Finally, in the summer of 2011, 10 years after killing Dustin Wehde, Tracey was finally arrested and charged with first-degree murder. She was convicted unanimously by a jury of 12 on 7 November and is now in prison serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Fortunately, after her incarceration, I was able to obtain primary custody of our children.
What does all of this have to do with the creation of Rexxfield? Everything, I would say.
Right after I filed for divorce in 2004, my ex-wife began a relentless Internet smear campaign against me, my business, and any individual that offered any kind of support to me, whether financial, emotional, vocational, or otherwise.
My business at the time was mile2, and the relentless attacks on my reputation and, by association, my business, brought mile2, which designed, developed and delivered information security training and information assurance services, to its knees. I was forced to sell for a fraction of what it would’ve otherwise been worth had it not been for these attacks. Even then the flaming aspersions continued until July 30, 2011, the day Tracy was arrested on first-degree murder charges.
She is actually now a 3 times convicted felon; in 2009 she also received felony convictions for both perjury and fraud by trials in Iowa and Nebraska, respectively.
Rexxfield was founded in 2008 in response to understanding what character assassination and unfounded attacks on businesses can do. I had experienced first-hand the devastation that these types of attacks can cause and that, in most cases, neither law enforcement nor the civil authorities and judiciary can relate to this issue.
Instead, what I’ve frequently found is that the very entities that are supposed to help people who have been wronged seem to take the position that “sticks and stones will break your bones, but names will never hurt you”. In my case, I had to fully prove that all of these anonymous attacks in fact originated from my ex-wife before anyone would even listen to me. So, in the process of having to convince the legal system to take my situation seriously, I developed some proprietary techniques, technologies, and methods for getting behind the cloak of anonymity in ways that ultimately helped inexorably link Tracey to the poison-penned attacks.
Unfortunately my breakthroughs were too little and too late to prevent the damage to my own name and business, but as I started blogging about my experiences I found myself being inundated with desperate cries for help. These requests ranged from tearful calls from parents of cyber bulling victims to the CEOs of multi-billion dollar companies. Realizing the desperate need for these types of services, Rexxfield was born..
CiviliNation: What kinds of people typically seek Rexxfield’s services?
Michael Roberts: Calls for help are incredibly diverse. Some are relatively simple and yet emotionally devastating because they come from teenaged cyber bullying victims, and others originate from from powerful people in multinational corporations. We also receive many calls from frustrated law-enforcement officials who are trying to investigate serious crimes. I’ve helped law enforcement investigate in cases of rape, robberies and even death threats against police officers who are living in fear despite their station in life. In all of these situations, without exception, the Internet service providers were not willing to reasonably cooperate with the investigations - I have found Google and Facebook to be quite notorious in this area.
I was recently invited to teach some of my methods to members of a joint federal and state task force whose mandate is protecting children from exploitation. I showed them some of the techniques we have developed and how the task force can implement those techniques into their own investigations. The group then shared some horror stories with me, including a case involving Facebook where a teenage rape victim was involved in a chat through Facebook less than half-an-hour before the crime took place. In that case it took months before Facebook complied with the requests for the originating IP address, by which time the evidence had perished because the ISP providing the connectivity to the suspect had subsequently purged the log file records. And to think the loss of this information could have been easily avoided with the proper cooperation.
In addition to helping private individuals and businesses, I am also assisting members of State House of Representatives in drafting new laws that will force Internet service providers to retain this perishable evidence for at least 2 years, because currently there are no laws addressing this obvious need. Obviously this needs to be balanced with people’s desire for privacy, so I want to make clear that through these proposed laws we are not asking to give Big Brother the keys to everybody’s Internet activities; on the contrary, we want the Internet service providers to remain the sole custodian of these confidential records and to only provide information in instances of legitimate civil and criminal warrants or subpoenas. In other words, we simply want to help avoid what happened in the rape case I described above.
CiviliNation: How have the attacks against you helped positively influence your work at Rexxfield?
Michael Roberts: Had I not gone through this fiery trial, I would’ve been like so many other people and considered the issue of online attacks and character assassination a mere trifle not worthy of serious attention. I would probably have also dismissed the victims who issue anguished cries for help as thin-skinned weaklings, as seems to be the reaction by most people who have not experienced this tragedy firsthand and simply refuse to see what is happening online.
CiviliNation: What is your response to people who claim that online reputation attacks against adults are rare and not something that most people need to worry about?
Michael Roberts: I would encourage such people to take a course in critical thinking, sympathy, empathy, and to open their eyes. I’ve found that until somebody has experienced this issue first-hand, or even second-hand through someone they love, they simply cannot relate to the devastation it causes.
Anonymous free speech is a wonderful privilege and should be preserved. In many cases horrible problems have been avoided by the ability to communicate anonymously, such as in situations involving whistle blowing of white-collar crimes, community awareness of when sexual predators move into the neighborhood, and many other alerts that are of great community benefit.