Snopes.com, which became famous for debunking myths and urban legends, then segued into claiming it debunked political falsehoods, including “fake news,” is begging for money and on the verge of financial collapse – but its owner has been accused of embezzling company funds to pay for his divorce and his lavish vacations with his second wife, a former Las Vegas escort and porn actress.
This week, Snopes' owner David Mikkelson started a GoFundMe campaign, in the midst of accusations from an advertising and internet services company called Proper Media which has filed suit against Mikkelson, claiming Mikkelson “'engaged in a lengthy scheme of concealment and subterfuge to gain control of the company and to drain its profits.” Mikkelson has argued that Proper Media has been holding Snopes “hostage” by “withholding advertising revenue.”
Last year, Proper Media's owners bought 50% of Bardav Inc., the company founded by both Mikkelsons that owns Snopes.com.
After Donald Trump was elected, Facebook chose Snopes to be among those who would ascertain whether news stories posted to Facebook were “fake news.”
Proper Media has asserted that Mikkelson unilaterally broke the advertising contract earlier this year; that he rebuffed shareholder efforts to stop his profligate spending, and that when Mikkelson claimed to be under financial duress in court filings in June, he was vacationing in Orleans, France.
Proper Media’s lawsuit states that Mikkelson spent “tens of thousands of dollars” from Snopes on legal fees for his divorce from his first wife, Barbara.
Mikkelson wanted a salary of $720,000 a year; he is accused of spending “tens of thousands of dollars' on personal trips with his second wife, Elyssa Young.
Young charged $500 an hour as an escort in Las Vegas, according to her website, which detailed her as “an elite courtesan who provides discreet companionship for those who appreciate the finer things in life … I have an adult woman's build and the soul of an indomitable force of nature burning within it.” She starred in adult films under the name “Erin O'Bryn.”
Young wasn’t shy about prostitution, either:
The Daily Mail reports:
Mikkelson claimed in legal filings that Bardav Inc. spends $165,000 per month running Snopes.com – a cost that is larger than the advertising revenue Proper Media says the website brings in …
The lawsuit also claims Mikkelson conspired with a former Proper Media employee named Vincent Green in an attempt to seize majority control of Bardav Inc. this spring. Green, a Marine veteran who was vice president of operations at Proper Media, allegedly became close with Mikkelson while working on the Snopes.com website as part of his responsibilities at the advertising company. “Throughout his employment, Green worked extensively on the Snopes website, and, as a result, came to personally know and befriend Mikkelson” said the lawsuit.