Immigration Bond Company Sues BuzzFeed for $5 Million

WASHINGTON (CN) — An immigration bond company sued BuzzFeed for $5 million over a cover story it says was “full of false and defamatory statements,” including that it was under federal investigation.

Plaintiff Libre by Nexus is a Virginia company that acts as a go-between for bail bond companies and people who need immigration bonds.

A BuzzFeed spokesperson rejected the allegations Monday night.

“This entire lawsuit is based on one sentence in our story — backed up by public, government documents — which clearly states that the investigations into Libre were closed,” the statement said. “By any standard, this is obviously not defamatory, and makes this lawsuit likely to fail.”

In a July 23, 2016 story, BuzzFeed news reporter Adolfo Flores described the company’s business model, which involves Nexus posting collateral for the bond companies and renting an ankle monitor to the bond-seeker, who must wear it until he or she is able to repay a certain portion of the bond.

The ankle monitor makes it more palatable for bond companies to post money they see as risky, according to the BuzzFeed story. The story contained multiple interviews from people who were skeptical of the program, saying it preys upon people who are unable to pay for the monitors and the bonds.

Libre by Nexus claims in its July 22 complaint that story contained a number of errors, including that recipients of the bonds Nexus secures must pay collateral.

Libre by Nexus’ major beef is the assertion that it had been investigated by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

The complaint states: “Most egregious is the statement that ‘ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) unit for allegedly targeting undocumented immigrants in custody and fraudulently charging them a fee for services.’ [Sic: Verb appears to be missing.] The article continues by falsely stating that the investigation was “eventually closed due to lack of evidence.”

Libre by Nexus claims that when the story was published, BuzzFeed “had full knowledge of” a Nov. 15, 2015 letter from ICE to U.S. Rep. Norma Torres, D-Calif., “which addressed and disposed of any question regarding a so-called ‘HSI investigation.’”

The complaint continues: “The ICE letter of November 15, 2015, establishes beyond any reasonable doubt that Nexus was not under investigation by ICE. In fact, the letter practically endorses Nexus’ business model. It states: ‘ICE has no legal authority to investigate or prosecute bail bond companies or other related service providers regarding allegations of inappropriate conduct between two private parties such as an indemnitor and bond company.’”

Libre by Nexus seeks $5 million for defamation from BuzzFeed and co-defendant Ben Smith, plus punitive damages. It is represented by John Shoreman with McFadden & Shoreman, who could not be reached for comment after business hours Monday.

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