To an author, there are few crimes more heinous than plagiarism. Every author knows the agony of the untold story, the grueling birth of a novel, the joy of finally bringing that creation into the world and holding it up for all to see.
Having that joy stolen from you is an unspeakable cruelty.
That’s why Rachel Ann Nunes’ plight has struck a chord with so many authors. Rachel’s novel, A Bid for Love, was stolen, mutilated, and repackaged as a sloppy knock-off titled The Auction Deal.
Rachel’s work has already hit #1 on the Amazon bestseller lists for Christian fiction, but the plagiarist believed she could improve it by injecting explicit sex scenes into the work. She then offered the book for sale under her pen name, Sam Taylor Mullens, and pretended that it was her own, original creation.
The plagiarist tried to take credit for Rachel’s inventiveness, hard work, and perseverance. It was a cowardly act, but it paled in comparison to what followed.
An impersonal crime becomes personal
It’s said that character is what you do when nobody is looking. Mullens felt invisible and untouchable behind her pseudonym, and her true character was quickly revealed.
First, she attempted to deflect criticism by offering a bewildering series of lies: that she had permission to use the work; that the work had been given to her by a mysterious, nameless man who later died in a car crash; that she was the niece of the CEO of Rachel’s publisher; and that she had collaborated with Rachel to write the book.
When those flimsy lies failed to stand up to scrutiny, she turned to a campaign of harassment and vicious libel against Rachel.
One woman, dozens of identities
Mullens had been inflating her ratings and reviews with an army of fake accounts — at present count, more than 20 of them — on Goodreads, Amazon, Facebook, and various blogs. When the plagiarism scandal was exposed, she used those sockpuppets to leave 1-star reviews on Rachel’s books. She disparaged Rachel personally with false allegations of fraud and with jaw-dropping audacity, accused Rachel of being the bully. And Mullens used her accounts to harass various bloggers sympathetic to Rachel, hoping to intimidate them into silence. She failed miserably.
Mullens proudly portrays herself as an indie author… but indie authors are a supportive community. They don’t prey on their fellow authors. They don’t cannibalize their family.
They don’t steal each other’s work.
Today, I’m happy to report that the plagiarist is being held accountable for her actions in a spectacular way. She has been identified as Tiffanie Rushton, a Utah schoolteacher. Rushton has been served with a summons to appear in Federal court on complaints of copyright infringement, defamation, false light, injurious falsehood, harassment, false advertising, and deceptive trade practices. If the suit is successful, she faces statutory damages of $150,000.00, plus damages for each sale of the infringing work, damages to compensate for the other allegations in the complaint, and attorney’s fees.
The compensatory damages could be tripled due to the nature of the offenses.
Additionally, the plaintiff’s attorneys have requested a string of injunctions prohibiting her from using fake accounts and identities to promote herself, prohibiting further disparagement of Rachel or Rachel’s works, prohibiting her from using any name other than her own online, requiring a retraction of all her attacks on Rachel, and requiring Rushton to publicly admit her plagiarism.
It’s likely that Rushton will declare bankruptcy to avoid paying the judgment, which makes the injunctions critical.
Her next victim
According to the complaint and evidence I have personally witnessed, Rushton is responsible for at least one other act of copying someone else’s work, and there may be more victims who are unaware that their hard work has been stolen. She is currently soliciting ARCs under the names [REDACTED] and Lucy Evans. (Please note that there is a legitimate author by the same name who is not involved in this case.)
If you have provided a copy of your work to Tiffanie Rushton or any of her other aliases, you may be at risk. Rushton’s fake identities include:
- Sam Taylor Mullens
- Lucy Evans
- Jennifer [REDACTED]
- Macey [REDACTED]
- Abigail [REDACTED]
- Abby [REDACTED]
- Abigail [REDACTED]
- Jennifer [REDACTED]
- Mercedes [REDACTED]
- Emma [REDACTED]
- Bethany [REDACTED]
- Moonshine and Books
- Simple Book Reviews
- Elle [REDACTED]
- Gibby [REDACTED]
- Hailey [REDACTED]
- Hannah [REDACTED]
- Ky [REDACTED]
- Rylee [REDACTED]
- Sierra [REDACTED]
- W [REDACTED]
- Aubrey [REDACTED]
A plea for restraint
Let me stress that this matter is being handled in the courts where it belongs. As infuriating as the situation may be, we are not vigilantes or bullies, and retaliation is entirely inappropriate. Under no circumstances should any person take it upon themselves to harass any party in the case, even if it’s just “giving her a piece of your mind.” It may be just a stern rebuke from your perspective, but multiplied by dozens or even hundreds of other rebukes, it becomes a brutal assault.
Also keep in mind that she operates under a number of names, some of which are shared by innocent persons.
Holding Tiffanie Rushton accountable may prevent other authors from being defrauded and attacked, but it must be done through proper channels. If you would like to help bring this con artist to justice, please donate and share Rachel’s fundraiser at http://www.gofundme.com/ctdxpw. She will need all the help she can get to fight back.
Together, we can stand against plagiarism.
I can’t imagine the price of an ARC is worth one’s honesty or reputation.
Sam Taylor Mullens, July 26, 2014
Standing Against Plagiarism fundraiser
Rachel Ann Nunes: Standing Against Plagiarism
Rachel Ann Nunes: Update on STM Plagiarism Case
Authors United Against Plagiarism and Cyberbullying
The Passive Voice: Standing Against Plagiarism
Pete Morin: Plagiarism and Petulance
Bookworm Nation: Busted! Sam Taylor Mullens has been positively identified!
Donna K. Weaver, Weaving A Tale or Two
Standard-Examiner Oregon: Orem romance novelist says Layton teacher plagiarized work
Huffington Post: Author Rachel Ann Nunes Claims Her Christian Romance Novel Was Plagiarized With Added Sex Scenes
Daily Mail: Utah author claims schoolteacher stole her electronic book
Permission is granted to reprint this article in part or whole, with attribution to the author, John Doppler.