In the not-so-dark recesses of the Internet exists evidence of a company known as Efficient Pickup, which purports to teach men how to seduce women.
The idea, apparently, isn’t to find The One, or even a special one among many conquests. This is a numbers game, with the word “game” and all its connotations being the operative term. The goal is to sleep with as many women as possible.
“Our method is based on that kind of ruthless, very straightforward, very easy to assimilate method that’s going to give you consistent results with high-quality women,” says one of the company’s operators in a video posted on YouTube in 2015.
But it was no game for a woman in San Diego who was raped while she was passed out at an apartment in 2013. Although she reported the crime immediately, she also took it upon herself to find and identify her attackers.
She found them through an Internet search that led her to a website for Efficient Pickup, and blog entries in which the men bragged about the night she was sexually assaulted.
Two of the men — Alexander Markham Smith, 27, and Jonas Dick, 28 — were identified as Efficient Pickup instructors. Each was convicted of rape charges and sentenced last year to eight years in prison.
A third man, Jason Berlin, was a student of the others. The 28-year-old is scheduled to be sentenced Friday in San Diego Superior Court in front of the same judge who ordered prison terms for the other two defendants.
Last month, Judge Jeffrey Fraser had harsh words for Smith, also known as “Beryl.”
“The fact is, the defendant did treat the victim in this case not as a human being but as simply an object,” Fraser said, according to a court transcript. “And I got to tell you, having sat up here for 18 years, there’s a lot of people that have sat in that chair … murderers, rapists, kidnappers — go down the list.”
The judge noted that the crime was committed with a level of criminal sophistication not usually seen in sex cases. He said the defendant had his own school, apartment and terminology, all used to teach men not to interact with women, but to rape them.
“In order to protect society, you need to be put away,” the judge told Smith.
The crime occurred in October 2013, after a 31-year-old woman and her girlfriend left a bar about 2 a.m. As they waited for a taxi, the women were approached by two men identified later as Smith and Dick, who invited them to an apartment, according to court documents.
When they arrived, a third man, Berlin, was asleep on the couch in the living room.
The woman was raped while she was passed out inside one of the apartment’s bedrooms. After her friend found her and she had regained consciousness, she said she had been raped and wanted to call police.
Officers went to the apartment and knocked on the door, according to court documents, but no one answered.
Surveillance video showed Smith, Dick, the victim and her friend entering the apartment complex. The victim appeared to be staggering, and she was still staggering when she left the complex about an hour later.
Her blood-alcohol content measured 0.15 around 5 a.m. Biological evidence was collected from her body for DNA testing, some of which was compared later to Smith’s. It was a match.
But the real break in this case came from the victim’s own investigation. The friend who was with her that night remembered Dick’s name, which led the woman to a website for Efficient Pickup that listed Dick and Smith as instructors.
The website appears to have been taken down, but a link to an archived version of that instructor page shows Dick’s photo along with a bio.
A listing under the name “Beryl” says he began running weekly “boot camps” teaching the Efficient Pickup method of seducing women starting in 2012 after the San Diego pickup community took notice of his skills.
“Beryl knows what it is like to have [bad] instruction — and pushes his students hard to make sure they get results,” the bio reads.
The website also featured a blog called “Tales of a Sex-Addicted Narcissistic Player,” in which the writer implied that the apartment the victim was taken to was rented for the sole purpose of seducing women.
One blog post by Berlin contained a vivid description of the October 2013 incident, according to court records. Another was posted by Smith about an hour after the sexual assault occurred.
Under state law, a person who is intoxicated, asleep or unconscious cannot give legal consent to a sex act.
Prosecutor Lisa Fox said it’s common for the district attorney’s office to receive reports from investigators alleging rape of an intoxicated person.
But this case differs from most, Fox said, because the perpetrators were an organized group that taught others how to pick up women — usually at bars and clubs — and bring them home. Then they wrote about their conquests on the Internet.
“They’re bragging about it online so that others can see how successful they are,” Fox said.
In at least one online video, a man who claims to have started Efficient Pickup tells viewers that by using his method, any “average guy” can seduce the women he wants. He tells potential students that “being a man is enough for a woman to be attracted to you,” and warns that although alcohol is an effective means to cloud a woman’s rational mind, doing so is “downright creepy and wrong, not to mention illegal.”
In this case, the victim told San Diego police about the website she found. At Smith’s sentencing last month, the judge said the woman deserved an award for her investigative work on the case.
“But for you, he wouldn’t be here and the others wouldn’t be here. Nobody would be held accountable,” Fraser said. “In fact, worse than that, things would have gone on and there would be other victims, and it is quite possible we would have never learned about this.”
Smith was arrested in January 2014. At the end of a Superior Court trial, he was convicted of rape of an intoxicated person and rape of an unconscious person, both felonies.
In an interview with a probation officer, he maintained that he did have sex with the woman, but he did not rape her. Smith has filed an appeal.
Dick and Berlin were arrested in March 2015. Each pleaded guilty to rape charges.
Defense attorney Vikas Bajaj said he plans to ask the judge at the sentencing hearing to consider placing Berlin on probation. He said Berlin fell into a “web” spun by Dick and Smith.
“He is a very naive individual, who leans on people who he believes to be experts in areas that he is deficient in,” Bajaj said.
Littlefield writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.