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Extortion and Revenge Porn During COVID-19: Economic Downturn Leads to Blackmail Uptick?

Despite the tumultuous times we find ourselves with the polarization of our nation due to the presidential election and day to day uncertainty of the COVID world we live, one thing has remained steady. The criminal lawyers , family court attorneys, Title IX counsel, and victim advocates at Crotty Saland PC continue to secure the results our clients have come to expect while also receiving recognition for their experience, knowledge, and advocacy. From Liz Crotty and Jeremy Saland’s Super Lawyer designation in the area of criminal law for metro New York City, the American Bar Association’s publication of Jeremy’s article, “Revenge Porn and the First Amendment”, and his presentation to a Cardozo Law School class, Liz’s continued strides in her efforts to represent the People of the State of New York as Manhattan’s next Democratic District Attorney, and favorable dispositions of numerous matters inside and outside the criminal justice system, Crotty Saland PC’s actions and results once again speak for themselves.

As attorneys regularly advocating for clients victimized in Blackmail schemes and Revenge Porn shaming sexortions, Crotty Saland PC has noticed an uptick in extorters willing to do whatever they need to fill their purses and wallets during the COVID-19 economic downturn. Whether parties met on websites such as SeekingArrangement.Com, SugarDaddyMeet.Com, SugarDaddy.Com, Secret Benefits.Com, WhatsYourPrice.Com, or AshleyMadison.Com, or merely shared images and videos through other platforms like Instagram, Facebook, or Reddit, there is no shortage of would be victimizers. In fact, over the past few months, Crotty Saland PC has confronted these harassers and silenced multiple blackmailers and Revenge Porn purveyors within the four corners of the law. The following are a mere few examples of recent matters our attorneys have successfully handled:

Before wilting to pressure and paying multiples more than the north of $10,000.00 our client had already paid an extorter in exchange for nothing more than countless broken promises to cease her threats to “expose” our client after meeting on a dating website, our client turned to Crotty Saland PC. Partnering with our investigators with whom we worked as prosecutors when they served as NYPD detectives, Crotty Saland PC successfully tracked down the woman solely through the number she used to text and call our client. In fact, we used this number to locate family members who were no doubt unaware of this young woman’s criminal behavior and could be called upon if needed to pull her back from the precipice. Although our target initially believed we would not find her and that we were bluffing after reaching out to her by way of phone, a knock on the door and presentation with a cease and desist memo setting forth the error of her ways put and end to her crimes. Simply, seeing her potential legal exposure in black and white and knowing that if necessary, her family would be called upon to help steer her in the right direction, the young fraudster relented and voluntarily stopped the larcenous scheme.

Similarly, another client met a woman online and consensually shared intimate recordings. Although the parties never met, after some time the woman demanded and received a sum of money from our client under threat of exposing our client and sharing the recordings with our client’s family and business associates. Ratcheting up the fear factor, the cowardly woman shared the names and some personal information of our client’s family members and business associates. Despite the initial difficulty of identifying this blackmailer as the two had never met and the malfeasor used multiple “burner” phones to communicate with out client, we were able to identify and confront the money seeking stalker due to amateur mistakes born from greed. After first denying she was the harassing party, Crotty Saland PC confronted our target with corroboration by way of certain non-anonymous financial records and served her with a memo setting forth, among other things, her potential crimes and the consequences she could face if she kept on her trajectory of ill repute. In short order, the misconduct came to a screeching halt.

Although the above two scenarios were somewhat similar – consenting adults meeting one another before one takes advantage of the relationship dynamic – by no means are any two cases the same. To that end, Crotty Saland PC recently represented a young person who shared intimate images with an unknown person met on a commonly used social networking site. Somewhat similar to the above situation where the recipient tuned around and threatened to expose our client if our client failed to pay an exorbitant amount of money, the unknown virtual assailant here demanded that our client provide more naked or sexual pictures and videos. If our client failed to do so, our client should expect that the previously shared recordings would find a home all over the internet on sites such as Pornhub and Redtube. Further, because the target met his victim through our client’s real social media account, the harasser also threatened to repost the imagery and link it back to our client. A hybrid of Revenge Porn, Coercion, and Extortion, money was not a driving factor – pornography and sexual gratification was. Ultimately, the cloak of the internet did not keep the virtual coercer in the shadows and before long, we received confirmation that all imagery was destroyed, and the conduct ceased.

Every situation involving some form of Extortion, Blackmail, Coercion, Revenge Porn, Stalking, and Harassment is different. However, when it involves the use of a relationship dynamic or threats to expose a shameful, embarrassing, and damaging “fact” to damage careers and relationships should there be a failure to cough up some amount money or type of property or a victim does not take some form of action that her or she would have every right to object, it is likely that a crime has been committed. Whether an extorter or other harasser can be tracked down or a victim decides he or she wants to pursue protections in the criminal justice system, Family Court, outside a formal legal arena, or a combination of two or more of these, is up to him or her. However, no matter what route you pursue, know that you have rights and options and the sooner you seize control the better.

Crotty Saland PC, a law firm founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors, represents clients in criminal cases as both defendants and complainants, Family Court proceedings, Title IX and code of conduct investigations, and matters involving Revenge Porn, Extortion, Coercion, Harassment, and Stalking.

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