On a routine hike near their Woodstock precinct, Deputy Sheriff Marco Veruzo and Detective Frank Langia found 30 young adults, aged 19 to 26, who were on the verge of death at what seemed to be an under-the-radar startup company.
“They were chained to their computers, like slaves,” reports Veruzo, who immediately freed the interns and called for backup. After scouring the five-bedroom “cabin-chic” house, the officers discovered it was the satellite office of Link Bait, a successful online content mill founded by Russian billionaire, Yuri Koprokov.
“These kids were writing up to 150 pandering headlines a day,” says Jeff Bitzak, lead prosecutor in the now class-action lawsuit filed by the victims’ parents. In addition to working 100-hour weeks, Bitzak claims the interns “consumed nothing but Monster energy drinks and Korean tacos for the last nine months.”
Though they were all dangerously close to dying of extreme exhaustion and dehydration, most of the interns reported being grateful for the opportunity to work at Link Bait. Reached in his room at Kingston Hospital in Woodstock, 22-year-old Devon Blakely seemed surprisingly enthusiastic: “Sure, they didn’t pay us in money, but it was a launching pad to get into hot shops like Uber or Snapchat.”
Mr. Koprokov, who rented the house on Airbnb from a young graphic designer who spends the winters surfing in Costa Rica, has declined comment. If he is found guilty, Koprokov faces deportation to one of his mansions in the Sayan Mountains.
Link Bait is famous for its extremely popular viral content pieces, like “Reasons Why You Might Die Today,” “Puppies Sing Jay-Z’s Entire Discography” and “Who’s Vagina Is This?”