Victims of Extortion

Many innocent executives and professionals have been the victim of extortion. Business people are targeted by the extortionists through demands of money and capital, and threats of revealing professionally damaging, personally embarrassing or legally incriminating information.

Unfortunately, some extortionists can go to extreme lengths in an attempt to gain a financial advantage. Unless you agree to pay them off, you could be jeopardizing your family, your business, or your reputation.

In many cases, victims of extortion are forced to submit or make compromises and ultimately fall prey to their extortionists. It may seem reasonable to comply with demands after threats of exposure or violence.

Our lawyers focus on white-collar crimes like extortion and conspiracy. We have defended companies and individuals and will strive to protect you, your family, and your rights from charges and accusations related to extortion.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of extortion, or you are concerned about potential liability regarding an ongoing extortion,
do not hesitate to call the Blanch Law Firm at (212) 736-3900 for a
free legal review of your case.

What is “extortion?” N.Y. Penal Law § 155.05

“Extortion” is a crime against property and is, therefore, a form of theft or larceny.

According to N.Y. Penal Law § 155.05(2)(e), “larceny by extortion” is the act of instilling fear in someone with the intent of compelling them to turn over property.

Larceny by extortion requires threats that if the property is not delivered, the extortionist will:

  • Cause you physical injury;
  • Cause damage to your property;
  • Commit another crime against you;Accuse someone of a crime;
  • Expose a secret (whether true or false);
  • Cause a labor group to strike;
  • Testify in a legal claim or provide false information in a legal claim;
  • Use or abuse their position as a public servant;
  • Perform any act which would is meant to materially harm another person with respect to his health, safety, business, career, finances, reputation, or personal relationship

Technically, extortion is different from robbery. Robbery involves taking personal property from someone’s possession by use of force or by threatening the immediate use of force–not the use of force in some future tense.

Extortion, on the other hand, can include any verbal or written threat–whether or not it is a threat of immediate physical harm or future financial harm. This can include threats against you, your family, your property, or your business.

These threats are used as a form of “coercion” to obtain money, sexual favors, property, or even as a way to coerce and extort the victim into committing criminal acts.

What is “coercion?” N.Y. Penal Law § 135.60

“Coercion” involves the use of threats, intimidation, or trickey, to compel or manipulate you to act in a way that you otherwise would not have.

Victims of extortion and coercion often feel pressure to act in a certain way due to the leverage the extortionists use against them.

Sometimes legitimate businesses are threatened by extortionists and forced to commit illegal acts in order to receive essential services or avoid consequences to their business.

Extortion by Fourth Degree Grand Larceny – (Class E Felony) N.Y. Penal Law § 155.30(6)

An individual can be charged with extortion in the fourth degree regardless of the value of the property they sought to take from you. For the purposes of this section, value is irrelevant.

There is no mandatory minimum sentence for this crime and offenders can be imprisoned for up to 4 years, in addition to fines, forfeiture, and civil restitution.

Extortion by Second Degree Grand Larceny – (Class C Felony) N.Y. Penal Law § 155.40(2)

Penalties for violating this section include up to fifteen years imprisonment, in addition to fines, forfeiture, and civil restitution.

New Types of Extortion

Extortion can include blackmail, bribery, ransom and other felonious threats. Below, we will uncover some new and innovative methods of extortion.

Sextortion

Sextortion involves threats to distribute sensitive or damaging information which are made in an attempt to force victims to comply with requests to provide sexually explicit photos or other material to the extortionist. This type of extortion usually occurs over the internet.

Cryptovirology

Public key cryptography system crafts fake keys which encrypt the user’s data, but usually cannot decrypt them unless the user pays for the real key. By using a computer system, extortionists are triggering the interstate commerce element of federal criminal extortion and federal jurisdiction will automatically attach.

Virtual Kidnapping

Virtual kidnappings can take many forms. Some of these extortion schemes involve leading victims to believe their family member has been kidnapped, when in fact the family member is fine.

Other schemes involve leading a family member–usually a grandmother or grandfather–to believe their grandson or daughter has been arrested and needs money sent quick to get out of jail.

In order to get the money before the scheme falls apart, extortionists play on victims emotions and distract them with various instructions on how to send a virtual payment.

The key for the extortionists is to distract the victim long enough that they do not realize they are being defrauded. Sometimes, extortionists will tell victims that they are being watching while they guide them through the payment process.

Classic Forms of Extortion

“Extortion Under the Color of Official Right”

This type of extortion involves a government agent–like a police officer or politician–using their legitimate powers to achieve an illegitimate goal.

Usually, this involves some form of political corruption like selling office or influence peddling.

According to the Hobbs Act, a victim need only show that a public official received some type of benefit to which he was not entitled, knowing that this payment was made in exchange for some official act.

Price Gouging

Price gouging usually involves a seller of commodities raising the price of his inventory to an absorbent amount–or an amount which would seem unreasonable in that line of business–in order to exploit the buyer.

After threatening buyers with damaging information, sellers requests unreasonable prices as payment for keeping quiet.

Unfortunately, this is often only the beginning, as victims are often forced to engage in further criminal activity out of the fear that they will lose their business if they do not comply.

Best Defenses for Victims of Extortion

  1. Factual innocence–you did not commit the crime.
  2. You were coerced into committing the crime.
  3. You were under duress at the time the crime was committed.
  4. You made a reasonable mistake of fact which led to the criminal act.
  5. The prosecution has insufficient evidence as to your criminal liability.
  6. You lacked the intent to commit the criminal act.

Most criminal convictions require some form of criminal intent. This means that you must have knowledge of the criminal act or intend to commit it or conceal it.

If you would not have committed the criminal act but-for the threats of extortion, you would not have the requisite criminal intent to be found guilty of most criminal offenses.

Proving you did not have the requisite criminal intent requires diligent work from both you and your attorney to prove your mind state at the time the alleged criminal act took place.

Establishing your state of mind in a past situation in order to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt is difficult for prosecutors.

Our attorneys have experience in federal extortion cases and defending against charges and accusations of fraud and conspiracy that extortion victims are facing.

If you are interested in speaking with a federal criminal extortion attorney, please do not hesitate to call the Blanch Law Firm for a free legal review of your case.

7 Things All Extortion Victims Need to Know

1. Extortion requires a verbal or written threat. Any verbal or written threat, like an email, letter, or phone call, can be considered extortion. It is important to note that by using the post office or a computer system, extortionists are triggering the interstate commerce element of federal criminal extortion and federal jurisdiction–as opposed to state jurisdiction–would automatically attach.

2. Extortion does not require threat of a criminal act. Threatening to tell a dark secret in exchange for a monetary payoff or personal gain is enough to trigger extortion charges. It does not matter that “telling a secret” of someone else is not criminal. If that act is meant to coerce or extort you into doing something you normally would not have done, it may be considered extortion.

3. Extortion can be committed with or without the use of force. As long as the threat was made with the intention to obtain some type of personal benefit, no use of force is needed. Simply threatening to release sexually explicit or sensitive material is enough to commit the act of extortion, even without a forceful or violent act.

4. Extortion can be committed with or without the use of a weapon. Extortion does not need to involve a weapon. The “weapon” in most extortion cases is a ransom letter or a threatening email or phone call. A simple letter is enough to trigger federal criminal extortion charges as long as it was sent with the hopes of coercing you into helping the extortionist obtain some type of personal benefit.

5. The threat only needs to be sent to you–you do not have to receive the threat in order to commit the crime of extortion. Whether or not the individual who the extortionist intended to threaten is aware of the threat, they may still be found liable of extortion. If someone sent a ransom letter in the mail and it was intercepted before you received it they may still be liable for extortion. Threats may be direct or indirect.

6. Actually obtaining the money or property is not required to commit the crime of extortion. Even if the extortionist does not end up taking or receiving your money, they may still be liable for extortion. Simply using a threat with the intent to receive some type of benefit can be considered extortion.

7. You must not have maintained ownership of the property in question. The fact that you maintained possession or ownership of the property in question may provide an extortionist with a possible defense. However, an extortionist threat still may be enough to find the defendant liable of committing extortion–even without the actual taking of the property.

High Profile Cases of Extortion Victims in the News

1. “Dine and Dash” Dater Charged With Extortion

On September 8, 2018, prosecutors in Los Angeles, California, filed extortion charge against Paul Guadalupe for allegedly extorting women by luring them to nice restaurants, putting tons of food on the tab, and slipping out the back door of the restaurant to leave the female victims holding the check.

To see more about this story, click here.

2. “Virtual Kidnapping”

For years the FBI has been issuing warnings about the increase in “virtual kidnappings” across the United States.

Virtual kidnappings can take many forms. During some of these extortion schemes, the victims are led to believe their family member has been kidnapped, when in fact the family member is fine.

Other schemes involve leading a family member–usually a grandmother or grandfather–to believe their grandson or daughter has been arrested and needs money sent quick to get out of jail.

In order to get the money before the scheme falls apart, victims are given various instructions in order to distract them or are even told that they are being watched.

Victims are often told to buy gift cards like “Apple Pay” or some other form of online payment and then to return home and read the numbers on the back of the card to the extortionists.

While it may seem silly, the elderly often fall victim to this type of extortion because they lack the common knowledge of what things like “Apple Pay” cards even are.

To learn more about virtual kidnapping, click here.

Work With an Attorney You Can Trust

Our dedication to our clients and their freedom is what sets us apart from other federal criminal defense firms. Our lawyers work diligently to make sure all of our clients and their families are protected from investigative probes by the FBI, the Department of Justice, and various other federal agencies.

Our results-driven approach to federal criminal defense involves assigning multiple members of our white collar team of attorneys to any case, ensuring a comprehensive defense and the best outcome possible.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of extortion, or you are concerned about potential liability regarding an ongoing extortion, do not hesitate to call the Blanch Law Firm at (212) 736-3900 for a free legal review of your case.