Attorney Rick Helmuth harassed me for years on the Las Vegas Advisor forum using the alias “Buick Riviera.” I discovered his true identity.
There are a lot of things to love about the Internet. You can find people with similar interests and shrink the geographic boundaries between you, allowing people from around the world to communicate. On the other hand, you can also find an amazing amount of information about people if you give it a thought. That's why many people fear providing their real name online. Some worry about identity theft, others worry about protecting secrets. A select few like to use pseudonymity in order to attack others. This tactic was fairly common in the founding days of the United States. Publishers would print scathing attacks on politicians hidden behind pseudonyms. Some of our founding fathers engaged in the practice, from Ben Franklin to John Adams. George Washington lamented the lies printed by these “infamous scribblers.”
I'm no George Washington, but for about the past two years, I've had my own little online nemesis who's delighted in provoking and stalking me while hiding behind a veil of pseudonymity. He's gone so far as to post satellite images of my house on web forums, offered my home address to anyone who requested it, and gleefully posted about invading my privacy. I was annoyed more by his mocking and provocative attitude than by the information he offered. After all, everything he found was publicly available.
I'm not afraid to share my identity on the Internet for a few reasons. First, I believe that the best way to protect your identity is to assert it. Second, obscurity is not security. There's no point in feeling a sense of comfort from hiding your identity with the assumption that it's impossible for anyone to find out the secret of your true identity. Google follows you everywhere. Even if you're very careful, you're bound to leave clues.
Rick Helmuth aka Buick Riviera
That's how I discovered that my tormenter, a person who posts online under the alias Buick Riviera, was actually a 58 year-old husband, father, grandfather, senior partner in a law firm, chairman of a Civil Service Commission,and member of his county's Board of Health. His name is Ricky Jay Helmuth of Orrville, OH.
We met on the Las Vegas Advisor forums. Rick Helmuth had been there for a while as Buick Riviera, and already had a reputation for stirring up some heated discussions. His political views lean strongly to the left and he doesn't hide his hatred for George W. Bush at all. I think of myself as a moderate Republican, so we clashed on political issues. Helmuth likes Downtown Las Vegas instead of the Strip or other areas. I actually visited downtown for the first time based upon recommendations from folks on the forum. Unfortunately, I found next to nothing charming about it. The place stunk of smoke and urine, and that was inside the casinos there. The folks who visit Downtown just aren't on the same wavelength as I am. It seems that Helmuth also took this as a personal insult.
Due to our disagreements, Rick Helmuth decided to start off with insults. He called me “lowbeem”, “beemshit”, “beemslime”, and probably others that I've since forgotten. I have to admit, he pissed me off and I most certainly said some unkind things in response. I've never had anyone speak to me in person the way Rick Helmuth did online behind his persona, Buick Riviera. It bugged me.
Should someone ever insult me in person, I'd look them straight in the eye and confront them. That's not possible online with a person hiding behind a pseudonym. The fact that I couldn't reach a person who was blatantly mocking me had a tremendous impact, and I just got more upset. That played right into Helmuth's joy and he continued to do everything he could to push my buttons. For example, when he learned that I hated tattoos, he posted photos of some (I thought) really gross examples of body art. I was more upset by the notion of being mocked by a coward than the actual content he used.
However, that wasn't enough for Helmuth. He decided to escalate things by invading my privacy. He looked up my home address and offered it to anyone who wanted it, kicking things off with this post on the Las Vegas Advisor:
Last night I found out how unsafe the internet can be. After a little exchange with lowbeem (you'll have to read the last page or so of the Ellis Island thread) I set out to learn the address of our Resident Pontificator to take him up on his invitation to “sue me”.
Anyhow, thanks to his big mouth and inability to use one word when 125 will do, I now know his address, what his house looks like, that his avatar is a fraud, that he does not live in a water front property, that behind his house is a dry pond (in Ohio we would call it a big mud puddle), what certifications he holds, what his training is in, the name of his former employer (he was “let go”), what technical papers he has written (he mentioned on here he is in the area of IT), how many dogs he has, I know that 7 is two of the digits of his address and the names of his neighbors. I'm pretty sure I know the name and address of his parents (but I got tired and went to bed).
If I was a thief, I'd also know when to ransack his house because he has told us all when he is going on vacation, where he will be, how far he will be from home, the dates of deparature and that he will be 442 miles from LV coming and going with his visit sandwiched in between.
Of course this all took about 30 minutes because I didn't know what I was doing and I was unwilling to pay $20 to the various vendors out there who would do it for me.
My point is simply this. You aren't safe, your families are not safe and your possessions aren't safe when you decide to be an egotist on the internet. You open yourself up to the whole world, including the fruits and nuts.
What befalls lowbeem, I could care less. But for the rest of you (as they used to say on Hill Street Blues) be careful out there.
Your resident nut,
Of course, it didn't stop there. He decided to post a satellite photo of my house with a diagonal slash through it on the site, and as part of his signature line on every post (since removed by LVA moderators). As he stated, his purpose was to violate my privacy as much as possible:
Cool site [referencing Zillow.com]. It was a lot faster than my gumshoe tactics. I got lowbeem's house (the correct one, not the one Google Earth gives you) in 6 seconds. All you need is the address (which you can easily find) to invade his privacy and peel away the fraud.
Helmuth continued to taunt and insult for nearly two years. The only interruptions occurred when he was occasionally banned from the Las Vegas Advisor forum by its moderators. Not once, not twice, but three times. After each of his first two times being banned from the forum, Helmuth changed his attitude when allowed to return. He seemed more humble and less troublesome to me. Unfortunately, it never lasted. He received his third (and permanent) ban from Las Vegas Advisor a few weeks ago when he was once again displaying a satellite photo of my house in his signature line.
I thought it would be over by that time. Helmuth couldn't post on that forum and I didn't visit the other Las Vegas message boards where he was still posting. At least, that's what I thought until I joined some friends and former members of Las Vegas Advisor on a forum at the VegasRex.com site. Once again, Helmuth started taunting folks on the forum, including myself and others, starting posts like this one:
Ohio State Kicks Michigan's Ass Again!
by Buick Riviera on Sat Nov 17, 2007 3:25 pm
So fuck you LIR. You too Nesalk.
Wise decision Big.
..and this one:
Here's What's Really Cool About This Forum
by Buick Riviera on Sat Nov 17, 2007 8:15 am
You can see how ugly the beautiful people really are.
…or adding this video (which I presume he intended as a snipe against me) to an existing thread:
Re: Funny Video's Thread
by Buick Riviera on Fri Nov 16, 2007 8:40 pm
One of our own?
I finally had enough. This person I only knew as Buick Riviera simply didn't seem to have anything better to do with his life than toss insults from behind a shield of obscurity. I was determined to put us on equal footing. He knew who I was and I intended to find out who he was.
Over the past couple of years, Helmuth left clues that I fed into Google. His avatar was always a graphic encouraging others to adopt greyhounds. He'd mentioned that his dogs were named Jake and Abby. He stated that he lived in Northeast Ohio. He is a big supporter of Ohio State sports. He loves fishing, and even posted photographs of his gear to make fishing rods in his home. He previously mentioned that he was a senior partner in his business.
Helmuth uses a Photobucket.com account with the user name JakeGrey; something easily discovered by right-clicking on one of the photos he posted on the Las Vegas Advisor forum and examining the properties. That added another clue to my search. All of this was good enough for a start.
Using Google, I searched for “Buick Riviera” + Ohio, “Buick Riviera”+fishing, “Buick Riviera”+greyhound, and “jakegrey” in my queries. I found a few hits. For example, “jakegrey” hit on Half.com for a user selling books, which shipped from Orrville, OH. A quick check of the map confirmed that Orrville was in the right region to be “Buick's” home, and gave me a bit more fuel for my searches.
Another hit was on a forum for OhioGameFishing.com. I got a hit on a thread about members posting pictures of their boats, and there was this entry from a user named Buick Riviera:
Not only did this poster have the same Adopt a Greyhound avatar, but the man in the photo was the same person who I'd seen in photographs posted on the Las Vegas Advisor of Buick Riviera. It was the same guy.
While I knew his face and his home town, I still didn't know his true name. I scanned every post Helmuth made on OhioGameFishing.com as Buick Riviera until I came across a thread discussing some engine problems he had with the Evinrude engine on his 2004 Ranger 175 VS bass boat. Someone referred him to another forum – BassBoat Central – to discuss his problem. Helmuth signed up on that forum and dutifully hid his e-mail address. However, location or age. Once again, I saw the familiar greyhound avatar, his location was in Ohio, and his age of 58 matched information he previously posted on Las Vegas Advisor. He also failed to conceal his Full Name:
From here, everything clicked. My tormentor was actually Rick Helmuth of Orrville, Ohio. More quick searches revealed his full name was Ricky Jay Helmuth. He is a senior partner in the law firm of Johnson and Helmuth:
Rick Helmuth is a member of the Wayne County, OH Board of Health:
Rick Helmuth is a the Chairman of the Civil Service Commission for the City of Orrville, OH:
There's more information, such as his e-mail address, his 1300 square foot home from an aerial point of view, and even photographs of his dogs. Now I know the same things about the man who so happily tormented me for about two years as he knows about me. All it took was some searches on Google and other public databases to bring it all out. I haven't uncovered anything that wasn't already provided by Helmuth. I simply used the power of search engines to correlate the information that he laid out in public.
My recommendation for Rick Helmuth is simple. Behave online as you would in person. Perhaps he thought he could taunt and tease people on the Internet behind a pseudonym and no one would ever connect it to him. If that's the case, he was wrong. From what I've gathered, Helmuth behaved this way simply because he didn't like me. It's fine if someone doesn't like another person. How one behaves is the issue. Rick Helmuth's behavior was quite simply appalling and inappropriate. You would think a 58 year-old man could find better ways to deal with his personal issues than to become an infamous scribbler.