Lawsuits, Chess Politics, and Susan Polgar
Zsuzsanna (Susan) Polgar, former world women’s chess champion and a board member of the US Chess Federation (USCF), is being sued by the USCF for alleged unauthorized email access. She allegedly accessed email messages sent between other USCF board members and a lawyer without authorization.
In December 2006, when Paul Truong, business manager and husband of Susan Polgar (they were married in December 2006), became a candidate in the election for the USCF Executive Board, many posts signed by Sam Sloan (and sometimes by a fake Ray Gordon) were made on the Internet targeting several USCF members and candidates in the election. Fake Sam Sloan identities were coming from Lubbock, Texas where Truong had moved with his wife, Susan Polgar. Paul Truong was active in the USCF forums under the username “ChessPromotion.”
In May, 2007, Polgar and Truong moved to Lubbock, Texas after it was announced that Susan Polgar would become the coach of the Texas Tech chess team and would be director of the new Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence (SPICE).
In June, 2007, Truong filed for personal bankruptcy.
In July, 2007, Susan Polgar and Paul Truong (along with Randy Bauer) were elected to four-year terms to the Executive Board of the USCF. Sam Sloan, a candidate to the board, was defeated. He sat on the USCF Board from 2006-2007, before losing his bid for re-election the following year.
Shortly after the election, Susan Polgar and Paul Truong became dissatisfied with the re-design of the USCF Web site by Brian Mottershead and Hal Bogner, whose company Chess Magnet School (Hal used to have Chess Laboratories and is now the business manager of Chess Magnet School)) was working on the redesign. Polgar and Truong asked that Mottershead and Chess Magnet School be fired.
Brian Mottershead then made accusations of fake posts on the Internet by Truong via the report that he authored and provided to USCF management at their request. Susan Polgar responded that Mottershead was waging a vendetta. She said, “These people started all these accusations the day after I criticized them about their job performance.” She later said, “I have an impeccable reputation, and they are trying to damage my reputation.”
In September, 2007, there appeared postings of an advertisement of a bogus sexually explicit DVD of Mr. Sam Sloan's wife. The postings were meant to ensure the defeat fo Sloan in his bid for re-election to the USCF board in 2007.
In October 2, 2007, Susan Polgar and her husband, Paul Truong, who is also a board member of the USCF, were sued by Samuel H. Sloan, a former board member, for allegedly making offensive posts in his name (Fake Sam Sloan) on Internet bulletin boards and Usenet newsgroups such as rec.games.chess.misc. He accused Susan Polgar and Paul Truong of posting thousands of remarks in his name over a two-year period in an effort to win election to the board (Polgar and Truong were elected to the board and Sloan was defeated). Many of the remarks supposedly made by Sloan were defamatory or obscene. Susan Polgar and Truong both denied writing the posts in Sloan’s name. The lawsuit was filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan.
Several females, including a few who worked for or with the USCF, were also targeted by this imposter. In addition to impersonating Sam Sloan, these posts attacked and/or libeled the USCF, Sam Sloan, Ray Gordon, Brian Lafferty, Bill Goichberg, Erik Anderson, Beatriz Marinello, Hal Bogner, Paul Hoffman, Jennifer and Greg Shahade, and other USCF members. The language was frequently extremely profane, obscene, indecent, and racist. U.S. Code 47 USC 223(a)(1)(c) states that it is a crime if one utilizes a telecommunications device without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person who receves the communications.
Sam Sloan filed a $20 million lawsuit in Manhattan against Truong and Susan Polgar. The lawsuit stated that they broke federal law and asked for new USCF board elections and punitive damages. He was seeking to overturn the results of the 2007 USCF Executive Board elections in which Polgar and Truong won and Sloan lost. He alleged that there were more than 2,000 obscene “Fake Sam Sloan” newsgroup postings, as a result of which Polgar and Truong were elected.
In his lawsuit, Sloan as plaintiff, listed his defendants as Paul Truong, Susan Polgar, Joel Channing, William Goichberg, the USCF, Bill Hall, Herbert Rodney Vaughn, Gregory Alexander, Frank Niro, Grant Perks, William Brock, Randy Hough, Randy Bauer, Jim Berry, Texas Tech University, and the United States of America.
On January 15, 2008, four members of the USCF Executive Board issued a statement asking Truong to step down from his position on the Board. Truong denied any wrongdoing and refused to resign.
The suit was later dismissed on August 28, 2008, by US District Judge Denny Chin of the Federal District Court in Manhattan, who ruled that “Sloan fails to present a federal question sufficient to confer subject matter jurisdiction on this Court.” Sam Sloan has appealed the decision.
However, while the suit was pending, a specially-created USCF subcommittee hired an attorney, Karl Kronenberger of San Francisco, to investigate accusations against Susan Polgar and Paul Truong. This investigation determined that Truong was responsible for making the posts in question.
The rest of the committee members were Randy Bauer (chair), Bill Goichberg, Joel Channing, Randy Hough, and Jim Berry.
In January, 2008, David Ulevitch, a computer expert with OpenDNS, examined a report by Brian Mottershead, an administer at the USCF, and concluded that Paul Truong was the author of about 2,500 messages on the Internet posted in other people’s names, particularly Sam Sloan. Ulevitch wrote that Mottershead’s report “provides over a dozen different data points from IP addresses to locations to user-agents and more that all lead to a single conclusion with an overwhelming amount of evidence.”
Another computer expert, Dr. Robert Jones of Craic Computing LLC, concluded, “The technical approach taken by Mr. Mottershead in his analysis is valid and it appears to have been carried out professionally and correctly.” Dr. Jones agreed that the person identified as ‘chesspromotion’ on the USCF’s internal forum Web site was the author of the fake postings, but was unable to identify the real person behind the user account ‘chesspromotion.’
In June 2008, Susan Polgar quoted directly from confidential email communication between the subcommittee and Mr. Kronenberger in email messages to the USCF board and on her chess forum Web site (susanpolgar.blogspot.com). In one message, attorney Kronenberger outlined legal strategies and stated, “We want to put Truong in a position where he has an incentive to resign from the board, and indeed does resign from the board.” Kronenberger asked Polgar how she had seen the confidential email messages. He contended that the email messages were stolen.
On June 25, 2008, the USCF filed a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court seeking subpoenas to force Internet service providers to turn over the IP addresses that had been used to gain access to the USCF board's emial accounts.
Susan Polgar maintains she found the email messages on the Internet, but did not access them without authorization. In August, 2008, Susan Polgar said in an interview that "the messages were public knowledge; they were on the Internet."
In February 2008, another lawsuit was filed by Gordon Roy Parker, He based his suit on the report alleging that Paul Truong faked postings on the Internet in Mr. Parker's name. Parker also named Sam Sloan in his suit as part of a conspiracy to destroy the USCF and profit from its demise. Mr. Parker sought damages, saying he was libeled and defamed.
On September 2, 2008, Judge J. Curtis Joyner dismissed Mr. Parker's suit because it was not coherently argued very well by Mr. Parker, who acted as his own attorney.
On July 28, 2008, the USCF instituted legal proceedings against Polgar and Truong in the District Court of Lubbock, Texas for leaking confidential emails from the USCF Executive Board. The USCF charged them with wire fraud and the U.S. Secret Service has said that the case was referred to its San Francisco office for investigation.
The USCF lawsuit was originally filed in June, 2008, in San Francisco Superior Court, citing unknown people as defendants. On October 24, 2008, the USCF amended the suit, naming Susan Polgar and Gregory Alexander. Alexander manages Susan Polgar’s chess discussion Web site. The amended suit said that records turned over by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) showed that Polgar’s and Alexander’s Internet protocol addresses were used to gain access to the email.
The lawsuit seeks more than $1 million and an injunction to stop Susan Polgar and Gregory Alexander from unlawfully accessing email accounts of the USCF and its employees.
Paul Truong said that the latest suit was part of a vicious political witch hunt by the USCF against him and his wife, Susan Polgar.
On August 9, 2008, a motion to remove Paul Truong from the USCF Executive Board was put before the delegates of the USCF. The motion was defeated by a clear majority of the delegates present.
In August 2008, Susan Polgar filed her own lawsuit in Lubbock, Texas, against the USCF, four of its members, and other members of the USCF in which she claimed libel, slander, and business disparagement. Susan is asking for $25 million in damages. She is suing the USCF, Bill Goichberg, Jim Berry, Randy Bauer, Randy Hough, Bill Hall, Brian Mottershead, Hal Bogner, Chess Magnet LLC, Continental Chess Incorporated, Jerry Hanken, Brian Lafferty, Sam Sloan, and Karl Kronenberger.
Susan offered to settle her suit against the USCF for $1 plus an apology from the USCF for all the grievous wrongs done to her.
On October 24, 2008, a new lawsuit was filed: USCF & Randy Hough vs. Susan Polgar and Gregory Alexander, Case Number CGC-08-476777. This suit was filed in the Superior Court of California in San Francisco. The claim is that Polgar and Alexander were hacking into the Internet accounts of other USCF board members, including Randy Hough. Polgar and Alexander are charged with using a stolen password to surreptitiously access the email account of Hough over 100 times during the course of eight months. The complaint also charges Susan Polgar and Gregory Alexander with Computer Fraud under the Comprehensive Computer Data and Access Act.
A new complaint attached to the San Francisco lawsuit alleges criminal acts by Susan Polgar. Specifically, it charges her with violations of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The complaint also charges Polgar and Alexander with Computer Fraud under the Comprehensive Computer Data and Access Act, California Penal code Section 502 (c) and (e).
The USCF filed a lawsuit at the end of December in the Seventh Judical Circuit Court in Illinois seeking the removal of Susan Polgar and Paul Truong from its USCF board. The suit charges that Polgar stole email messages between some USCF board members and Karl S. Kronenberger, the San Francisco lawyer hired by the USCF. It also charged that Truong posted obscene and defamatory messages on the Internet about members of the USCF. Polgar's lawyer, Whitney Leigh, said that the lawsuit should be thrown out because it was not authorized by the full USCF board.
So it looks like there are at least five lawsuits involving Susan Polgar, Paul Truong, the USCF, and the Fake Sam Sloan. The USCF hired expert witness, Dr. Fredericj Cohen, as their expert forensics witness. His conclusion was that Truong appeared to be responsible for the "Fake Sam Sloan" postings.
All of these lawsuits are already having repercussions. Dr, Eric Moskow, a Florida medical doctor, chess master, and millionaire, had once pledged to contribute up to $1 million over the next few years to sponsor chess tournaments in the United States. He has now decided that he does not want to put any money into chess in the USA at this time.
Here is the Mottershead report:
On August 7, 2009, Susan Polgar and Paul Troung were removed from the executive board of the USCF. Gregory Alexander, Polgar's chessdiscussion.com webmaster, was indicted by a federal grand jury in San Jose on 34 counts of email hacking and one count of aggravated identity theft (used a username and password belonging to Randall Hough) and was arrested in August by the U. S. Secret Service.