Nothing can erase the good you’ve done, Brian Dunning

There is now an update to this post from October 2011.

Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning accused of wire fraud.

Please click and read in its entirety this post:

» A Skeptical Tragedy The Skeptical Abyss.

[…] according to the superseding information, the wire fraud involved causing cookies to be installed on internet users’ computers without their knowledge. If, by chance, those users later visited eBay and bought something, then an entity owned by Brian (at least in part) would be treated by eBay as if the entity’s website had driven the customer to eBay by means of a direct referral. The entity owned (at least in part) by Brian would then get a commission from eBay, as if the entity’s website had actually been responsible for driving the user to eBay. In reality, the entity’s website would not have driven the customer to eBay, and thus eBay was defrauded. Thus, wire fraud.

The superseding information charged Brian with wire fraud, occurring between May 2006 and June 2007, and on April 15, 2013, Brian pled guilty to that charge.

The sentencing hearing will be on August 8.

If I could do anything I would. Many of you recognize that we link extensively to Skeptoid on this site and have taken great joy in its success around the world. I’d never tell people to pray or send good thoughts but I can’t help wishing I could do something. Best wishes, Brian, Lisa and family. Nothing can erase the positive things you do in the world. At least not with me.

Addition: This partial explanation was posted by Brian at the start of the case. It was cleared by lawyers and is all he is authorized to say about the case.

I have closed comments. This is not really an appropriate topic for discussion.

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  19 comments for “Nothing can erase the good you’ve done, Brian Dunning

  1. One Eyed Jack
    April 17, 2013 at 10:54 AM

    Wishing him well? He broke the law.

    I’m not saying he should be vilified, but I feel no sympathy. He made his choice to defraud and has to deal with the consequences. One of those consequences is loss of respect.

    • April 17, 2013 at 11:37 AM

      I disagree. Lots of people make mistakes, this does not necessarily equate with an intent to defraud. If we lost respect for people who make mistakes (and owned up to them), we’d have no friends at all.

  2. April 17, 2013 at 10:56 AM

    Awful business. I have only know of Brian Dunning through Skeptoid, where i have both disagreed and agreed over the years, but I don’t see it really has any relevance to his work in Skepticism. He could well be technically guilty, which is not in any way to say he was morally guilty: he may not have been aware of the fact the processes involved were illegal, given the apparent complexity of the case ( I have no relevant legal knowledge). A plea bargain explains why a plea of guilty is entered, regardless of his own opinions as to the lawfulness of whatever he did. I think in the circumstances, it does not change how i feel about Mr Dunning in the slightest: I wish him and his family the best.

  3. drwfishesman
    April 17, 2013 at 11:12 AM

    I wish Brian well, and can’t wait for him to put this behind him and get back on the horse. I judge a person based on the total of their deeds not by one incident and my respect for him still stands.

  4. April 17, 2013 at 11:30 AM

    I don’t understand. The article says he’s been accused, but then implies that the next step is sentencing.

    Did I miss a trial? Or a guilty plea? This is the first I’ve heard of any of this. This is horrible. It’s true, it doesn’t invalidate his work, but the reason you have to say so is that we all know that’s how it will be used.

    • April 17, 2013 at 11:35 AM

      He pleaded guilty.

  5. Geoff Offermann
    April 17, 2013 at 11:32 AM

    One Eyed Jack…he may have broken the law, but does that preclude wishing someone well. What would you do if your brother plead guilty to picking someone’s pocket. Would you cut him off and say he’s no brother to you?

    Have a heart. He didn’t murder anyone and it’s far from clear what his culpability is at this point.

    To those of us who have listened to Skeptoid lo these many years and heard him on other podcasts like SGU, Brian has become an authority on and a teacher of skepticism.

    This is a blow to the skeptical community as well and he needs to answer for that as well. But I still wish him the best. I’m hardly objective and I don’t know what kind of money was involved, but 5-8 years seems too long.

  6. Ben
    April 17, 2013 at 11:38 AM

    Kudos to Doubtful News for highlighting the case despite their personal relationship to the accused.

  7. Bob
    April 17, 2013 at 11:41 AM

    Ugh. Ow.

  8. April 17, 2013 at 11:45 AM

    I’m kind of an idiot; I didn’t click the link despite the fairly-clear invitation “Please click and read in its entirety this post.” That would explain why I found the story unclear. No one who clicks through will face the same intellectual challenge as I did.
    Never mind!

  9. April 17, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    Those micropayments? I’m thinking his family would probably appreciate keeping them up….and I still use Skeptoid and the videos when teaching. The school I worked at and only sub at now also still uses them (and will continue). His quality, raising the bar in a sea of shoddy and homemade sounding podcasts, is something we owe him great thanks for. And, for me, I look forward to more Skeptoid in the future.

  10. Mike
    April 17, 2013 at 12:04 PM

    (Full disclosure: I’m a Skeptoid subscriber and I write once a week for Skeptoid Blog)

    Let’s not divorce ourselves from critical thinking regarding this case. People plead guilty or settle lawsuits for all kinds of reasons. A family member of mine recently settled a lawsuit not because they did anything wrong, but because legal fees were killing them and they just wanted it to be done. We don’t know what was offered to Brian in the agreement, what kind of deal was made, why he did this or anything else.

    To borrow something from a recent Skeptoid episode, “I don’t know does not mean I do know and Brian is going to Federal prison for 20 years.”

  11. Funkmon
    April 17, 2013 at 12:17 PM

    We all make mistakes! He’s still the coolest cat in town in my book.

  12. Chris Howard
    April 17, 2013 at 12:22 PM

    I really am in shock. I don’t know what to say?!

    At least he’s responsible, and ethical enough to take responsibility for his actions, and then the subsequent punishment.

    Does anyone know how this will effect his family? Will they be okay financially?

  13. Brewhogg
    April 17, 2013 at 12:29 PM

    I agree with One Eyed Jack. He shouldn’t be vilified, but we shouldn’t express sympathy or feel sorry for him either. He engaged in an extremely elaborate scheme to defraud over $5 million (http://www.affiliatefairplay.com/extra/dunningindictment.pdf). He intentionally engaged in criminal activity to line his own pockets for personal gain. Crime is crime whether it is a fortune teller defrauding clients or a cookie stuffing scheme to defraud a company.

  14. April 17, 2013 at 12:51 PM

    I’m kind of sick when people forget that many humans’ first instinct is to support our friends and loved ones no matter what. We are human first. Whatever else second.

    For those skeptic bashers who get their jollies out of seeing the misfortune of others like Brian and Randi, you suck. I don’t get any joy seeing anyone suffer. Not even someone I detest.

  15. April 17, 2013 at 1:08 PM

    Has he been sentenced?

  16. April 17, 2013 at 1:54 PM

    This is unfortunate, and I’ve enjoyed his work for a long time. However, using a good product to mask a bad one doesn’t really make up for the harm done.

    • April 17, 2013 at 7:31 PM

      I don’t think this is at all related to Skeptoid. It had to do with a former employer.

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