DOCUMENT: Internet, Stupid

Manziel Lawsuit Is Latest Hoax From Notorious Inmate

Complaint against "Johnny Football" is felon’s work

Johnny Manziel

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Johnny Manziel Hoax

MAY 23--A notorious inmate has again duped media outlets into reporting the details of one of his hoax lawsuits--this one purportedly filed against Johnny Manziel by a TV host who claims that the quarterback sent her a photo of his penis in a hot dog bun.

The $25 million federal complaint--filed by mail with the U.S. District Court in Tampa, Florida--is the handiwork of convicted felon Jonathan Lee Riches, 37, whose litigation history has been frequently chronicled in these pages (most recently, Riches scammed TMZ’s gullible gossip hounds).

Riches, a convicted felon who spent ten years in federal prison for fraud, was released from custody in April 2012. The Pennsylvania resident, seen at right, was arrested eight months later on a probation violation charge and sentenced to a maximum of five years in state prison. Riches, who must serve a minimum of 30 months, is first eligible for parole in June 2015.

As he did while in federal custody, Riches passes his time in the state system filing specious lawsuits that name celebrities as defendants. In past years, Riches has listed himself as the plaintiff in many of these lawsuits. But when his name became synonymous with such hoaxes--and court officials placed him on a watch list--Riches began filing his actions in the names of others.

Last month, he masqueraded as another inmate to file a lawsuit against HLN host Nancy Grace and Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio. That complaint--which included convicted killer Jodi Arias as co-plaintiff--alleged that Grace had intercepted Arias’s mail and that Arias had contracted hepatitis while confined in a jail overseen by Arpaio.

The lawsuit against Manziel was purportedly filed by Samantha Schacher, an HLN contributor who co-hosts the cable network’s “Dr. Drew On Call” show.

While the envelope in which the lawsuit was mailed to Tampa lists Schacher’s return address as 190 Marietta Street in Atlanta, Georgia (HLN’s headquarters), it was actually postmarked in Trenton, New Jersey on May 13.

Riches is locked up in the state prison in Bellefonte, about 200 miles from Trenton, so any mail emanating from the institution would not carry a postmark from another city/state. So it appears that he had help in filing the fraudulent Manziel lawsuit.

One of Riches’s biggest supporters is a New Jersey resident who lives eight miles outside Trenton. In Facebook posts, Ed Breimann, 30, has saluted Riches’s serial scamming. Referring to the imprisoned felon, Breimann wrote last week that, “Of all the trolling cliques on the internet only one has the guy willing to go to prison over his trolling.” Pictured at left, Breimann is one of four members of “Sue-pergroup,” a Facebook group that describes itself as the “Jonathan Lee Riches © fanclub.”

After TSG last month detailed the Arias lawsuit hoax, Breimann posted a comment on the site claiming that “JLR is being framed” for the stunt. He added, “I spoke to him and he said he is innocent. Denied all wrong doing. I believe him.” Breimann did not reply to a message sent to his Facebook page or a voicemail left on a phone number associated with him.

[In an interview after this story was published, Breimann denied involvement in the Manziel hoax.]

The envelope in which the typed Manziel lawsuit was sent to federal court includes several redactions in its lower right corner. A comparison to the envelope in which the Arias complaint was mailed reveals that the redactions cover up markings that were added by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. The markings, which indicate that the envelope contains inmate mail, include the Pennsylvania Correctional Industries logo (PCI is an inmate employment and vocational training program for Pennsylvania state inmates).

So it appears that Riches sent the Manziel complaint and its envelope in a second envelope to an associate in New Jersey. That person then mailed the lawsuit to the Tampa courthouse--but not before the prison markings were blacked out. In TSG’s report about the phony Arias lawsuit, the prison markings were specifically cited as a way of connecting the hoax to Riches.

The redactions on the Manziel envelope were necessary since envelopes provided to inmates are pre-stamped with the inmate mail and PCI markings. While outgoing mail is scanned for contraband, envelopes are not otherwise opened, according to Department of Corrections spokesperson Susan Bensinger.

The Manziel lawsuit will soon suffer the fate of most Riches litigation: swift dismissal by a federal magistrate confident that the Cleveland Browns quarterback never referred to his penis as “his Vienna Sausage,” nor did the 21-year-old athlete ever claim to have jingled his penis to the music while riding the “It’s a Small World” ride at Disney World. (4 pages)