Last week, Boston joined the rest of the country in watching the revelations of the extortion of David Letterman. Letterman confessed to sexual relationships with staffers on his show and Robert H. (hereinafter, the “Defendant”), standing with his lawyer, pleaded “not guilty” to grand larceny charges and posting $200,000 in bail money.
Ironically, the Defendant is no stranger to crime stories, being a producer for CBS’ true-crime show “48 Hours.” Apparently, he has worked for the network for 27 years and has no prior criminal record.
According to the prosecution, the Defendant demanded two million dollars last month in order to prevent the releasing of information about Letterman’s sexual exploits with female staffers. Trying to disguise the blackmail note as a screenplay treatment, the note opined that Letterman’s world would “collapse around him” when information about his private life was disclosed, leading to “a ruined reputation” and damaging his professional and family life.
Rather than simply giving in to the extortion plot, Letterman is said to have contacted his lawyer who arranged a meeting with the Defendant wherein the Defendant demanded $2 million to keep the material secret. After the meeting, law enforcement was contacted and the investigation began.
The District Attorney’s office set up an undercover sting operation at a Manhattan hotel. As detectives were in an adjoining room with recording equipment, Letterman’s attorney met with the Defendant twice and discussed terms of the extortion. Finally, the Defendant was given a phony two million dollar check.
Then, he was arrested.
Meanwhile, Letterman himself was surprising his viewers with a monologue which included, “This morning, I did something I’ve never done in my life. I had to go downtown and testify before a grand jury”. He then explained about the extortion as well as the sexual relationships he which were the subject matter of the threats.
While the Letterman extortion plot took place in the Big Apple, we have seen many such instances in recent times which have come to light in various locations. It would appear that almost anyone, celebrity or not, can easily become the target of such a plot.
Recent cases involving those in the spotlight, other than Letterman, include basketball coach Rick Pitino, and actor John Travolta.
Here in the Boston area, we recently had a blackmail plot which appeared a couple of times in this very daily blog. The story included a wealthy businessman who had had a long-term relationship with a call-girl, but had decided to end the affair. Her response was to threaten to expose their relationship unless he paid a severance package of sorts. At first, he decided to pay, but as the demands continued, he contacted the local federal prosecutors. The result was that neither of them were prosecuted for the prostitution, but she was prosecuted for the blackmail. Later, as part of a plea bargain, she was ordered to remain silent about the former john’s identity and so he remained basically unscathed.
“Ok, Sam,” you put down your Monday morning coffee cup and sigh, “interesting stories. But, what do they have to do with me?”
You will note how seriously law enforcement takes the white collar crime of blackmail. for example, the fact that Letterman had to testify before a Grand Jury means that prosecutors intend to indict the Defendant on felony charges. As with other white collar crimes, prosecution of these cases looks good for law enforcement, particularly in these days of economic difficulty and Bernie Madoff.
Often, the suspects are not the typical street-level target, but are people who have presumed themselves untouchable. They are often assumed to be “above the law” by street-level alleged criminals and others. In short, white collar prosecutions often help the image of law enforcement in the eyes of the general public.
Particularly since times are tough, it does not look good when these matters go unsolved. In the Letterman case, it would appear that the evidence against the Defendant is strong. This is not always the case in white collar matters. Often, the basis of the prosecution could be explained by a misunderstanding or a mistake. However, investigators involved in such a prosecution are not particularly understanding of such errors.
They would rather prosecute.
And, unless you are the one person who has never, and could never, make a mistake when it comes to financial affairs, this brings us to you.
If you are under investigation or prosecution for a white collar crime, you want to have experienced counsel by your side. If you are facing such allegation and wish to discuss the matter with me, please feel free to call me at (617) 206-1942.
For the full articles upon which today’s blog is based, go to http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/ci_13475328?source=most_viewed , www.sheknows.com/articles/811323.htm and http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/1002/p02s10-ussc.html