Cyberbunk

Kevin Massey is no 'cyberstalker.' But when he tangled with another bullheaded loudmouth on the Internet, their 'flame' war spawned a great publicity stunt.

She eventually said yes, but not everybody has been as impressed with the Maynard charm.

On October 22, 1996, the Federal Trade Commission filed a civil complaint against Maynard and his previous business venture, the now-defunct National Credit Foundation Inc. of Phoenix. The FTC alleges that Maynard, who headed the company, misrepresented the company's ability to improve consumers' credit histories by erasing bankruptcies and other black marks from credit reports.

That complaint, which followed an Arizona attorney general's lawsuit making similar allegations, states that Maynard and another company officer misled consumers with an infomercial that purported to be a legitimate news program. It instructed consumers to call an 800 number, and those who did so were asked for their checking account numbers. Maynard, the FTC complaint alleges, solicited consumers' checking account numbers "for no other purpose than to debit consumers' accounts without obtaining authorization from consumers."

"Old news," Maynard replies in a written statement posted on his company's Web page. "I did not steal. When I saw problems--like the episode when a salesman began his script forcing a caller to read his checking account information without making a sale, then submitting it for sale--I took action to fix them...I took responsibility, lost everything, paid every penny back that I owed by earning it, and moved on."

A trial date for the FTC suit has not been set.
And, curiously, Maynard is the one in this feud who has been arrested before for alleged harassment.

In July 1995, Brad Arnold, a former Internet America employee, accused Maynard of threatening his life, a Richardson police report states. "I've killed 22 men with 22 shots. You're next," Maynard allegedly told Arnold by telephone. "I'm coming for you right now; keep your eyes open."

Police arrested Maynard on a misdemeanor harassment charge in September 1995, but that was as far as the case went. Arnold dropped the complaint last December, a few weeks after reaching an undisclosed out-of court settlement with Maynard in a breach-of-contract lawsuit brought in civil court, records show.

The first word Dallas police got that a cyberstalker was harassing the Maynard family was not a complaint from the Maynards.

It was a call from a Dallas Morning News reporter who already was at work on the story, recalls officer Tim Allen, who works in the computer crimes unit of Dallas police. Later the same day, Maynard faxed the police a stack of Mackdaddy's postings, but police could find nothing in them that appeared to be a terroristic threat.

"It looked like name-calling that escalated outside of that particular newsgroup," says Sergeant Gary White, Allen's superior. The officers had never seen a case like this before.

The police might have considered going forward with a charge of harassment, but Maynard did not ask to press formal charges, Allen says.

Instead, in a story that broke October 12 on the front page of The Dallas Morning News, Maynard declared he was taking this dangerous stranger to civil court. The impression any reader would have gotten is that Maynard was dealing with the sort of maniac who's usually after Cher or Madonna. Even Massey says he was surprised to learn it was himself.

Maynard had his on-line name, Mackdaddy; his return e-mail address; the name of his Internet service company; and--from some e-mail the two men had exchanged the week before the civil case was filed--the name Kevin Massey.

"He used other names in the past," Maynard says. "We didn't know it was him for sure."

Massey did make himself hard to find. He directs his old-fashioned mail to a former street address in Dallas.

Maynard made no mention of a flame war in the first day's blast of news reports, and insists the earlier flame postings between his employees and Massey were unknown to him at that time.

Massey had brought them to Maynard's attention, however, in some very politely worded e-mail the two men exchanged on October 10 and 11, just days before Maynard went public with his concerns about the so-called cyberstalker and filed his lawsuit.

Maynard and Paul Rafferty, a public relations man with Holland McAlister, say there are threatening comments from Massey in the e-mail that Massey and Maynard exchanged in private. Maynard declined to divulge those messages or specify what the threats were.

A series of e-mail messages released by Massey, however, shows nothing even close to harassment. In fact, he and Maynard were negotiating the precise language of his apology to Maynard and his wife that Maynard had asked for on October 10. There isn't even a hint of bad language in the exchanges, and that is some feat for Massey.

In a public post to the dfw.internet.providers newsgroup dated October 11, the day before the stalking story broke, Massey used his real name and genuine e-mail return address and apologized to Maynard and his wife. "I sincerely apologize to Ms. Maynard for putting her in this situation," he wrote. "I have gotten to know a little bit about Robert and I feel now that he is a reputable person, with terrific intentions. I will be eternally thankful to Robert for his patience and his honest effort to straighten this situation out."

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