New York—The CEO of a New York-headquartered sapphire company has been sentenced to time behind bars for falsifying federal court orders.

Geoffrey S. Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that 41-year-old Michael Arnstein of the Natural Sapphire Company has been sentenced to nine months in prison for forging a federal judge’s signature on counterfeit court orders concocted to get negative reviews about his business removed from search results.

According to a federal complaint and statements, these actions took place between February 2014 and February 2017.

They stemmed from a previous dispute with a web design and software development company.

In July 2011, Arnstein’s company filed a lawsuit against a Mumbai-based software company and its founder for cybersquatting and defamation.

It had hired the company to design its website and purchase domain names for it, but The Natural Sapphire Company terminated that relationship in early 2011. After the falling out, Arnstein alleged that the software company posted fake reviews about his business online and sued it.

A U.S. district judge in New York ordered a number of fake reviews removed.

They continued to pop up, however, and the criminal complaint filed against Arnstein alleges that the sapphire company executive then used the legitimate court order to create more than 10 counterfeit removal orders and forged the judge’s signature on them.

The counterfeit orders were sent to Google, requesting that the search engine de-index the websites containing the purportedly defamatory information. Arnstein was successful in getting reviews removed using these counterfeit orders, the Department of Justice said.

Arnstein pleaded guilty in September 2017 before U.S. District Court Judge Andrew L. Carter Jr., who imposed the 9-month prison sentence on Oct. 19.

In addition to the prison term, Arnstein also has been sentenced to three years of supervised release, the first five months of which he has to serve in home detention. The judge also ordered him to pay a fine of $20,000 and perform 200 hours of community service during his term of supervised release.

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