Little did I know that after prosecuting three men for blackmailing former NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony all the way back in 2004-2006 during my days as a Manhattan Assistant District Attorney, that my experience leading that investigation into Grand Larceny by Extortion would become the catalyst to develop a niche practice representing Extortion, Blackmail, Sextortion, Stalking, Harassment, and Revenge Porn, victims. Whether as a “fixer” handling cases outside the criminal justice system due to a client’s desire to keep matters private and from the public eye, and always within the four corners of the law, or presenting our cases “pre-packaged” to prosecutors leading to an indictment and even incarceration, having the knowledge and legal foundation to pursue these matters discretely has provided both emotional and financial relief to literally dozens upon dozens of clients over the years. In fact, in the past week and a half alone I have assisted three individuals, two of whom collectively paid out north of $60,000.00 to their extorters before contacting me, and another who, with his parents, reached out to Saland Law, PC before his life went sideways.
While routinely representing individuals with public facing lives in the media, Big Law attorneys, C level executives of financial firms, physicians, and the entire spectrum of professionals with much to lose in terms of their careers and familial, business, and personal relationships, the swath of people who have and continue to come to me for help is expansive. By the time these clients come to me, many have paid significant sums of money even into six figures or, arguably worse, have already succumbed to humiliation and torment before finally having the courage to seize the power dynamic in their favor and from their blackmailer. Beyond these professionals, however, is a growing segment of the population seeking my assistance that arguably didn’t not exist with much significance more than a decade ago. Who are they? Children. Yes, children. Often not capable of managing the stress of their victimization, these children find themselves on the precipice with desperation propelling them over the edge in an untenable situation. As a result, over the past few years, the firm’s Extortion, Sextortion, and Blackmail protection has evolved to encompass representing children from pre-teens through teenagers. Not only are these matters prioritized, but with the assistance of their parents so is their mental health and wellbeing.
CHILD EXTORTION & BLACKMAIL VICTIMS
Unfortunately, children fall prey to abusers after they naively share compromising, intimate, and nude pictures with strangers on Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and other social media platforms. Sadly, the children believe the person they are chatting with is a contemporary, often a teenage girl, and someone they friended online when in fact it is a predator in New York, elsewhere in the United States, or even abroad. Other times, secretly exploring their own sexuality and knowing the other person is an adult of the same sex and gender, the child wrongfully believes they can trust that person when in reality the individual on the other side of the screen is ready to pounce and moments away from terrorizing them with threats of sharing intimate videos and images.
With the above in mind, about two weeks ago an attorney reached out because a child she knew was in the crosshairs of a blackmailer purporting to be a teenage girl on Instagram. Being coerced into paying $400, the child finally confided in the parents about what occurred and the threats the “girl” made to share his intimate images with his friends on Instagram and posting the same in inappropriate online forums should he not pay. Prior to advising his parents or their engagement of me, the child attempted to pay his predator through Venmo, PayPal, and Zelle, but was unable to do so. Unwittingly, even though he failed to pay the cowardly abuser, the child provided many clues that enabled me to shut down his blackmailer and give him relief in all its forms.
Along with usernames, real names, emails, and phone numbers, the payment services and apps provided enough information for me to generally identify the individual(s) perpetrating this deplorable offense or those involved in the criminality. Armed with this information, and other relevant data, including a fairly small $400 demand that is generally too low a sum for a person to pursue in the United States, I was also able to identify the country the extorter lived. Having worked with counsel and investigators outside the United States to locate and shut down blackmailers, most recently in the Philippines, I crafted a cease-and-desist memo (far more than a mere letter) with enough identifying information and other important material, including that related to banking, to convince this selfishly invasive individual that whether or not he was ultimately prosecuted, there would be grave consequences for his actions. Simply, whatever cloak of anonymity he believed he wore would quickly be disrobed. In short order, my client’s harasser ceased all communication and ended his emotional assault on my client.
PROTECTING CHILDREN FROM ONLINE BLACKMAIL & SEXTORTION
Only an extremely brief description of what occurred and our efforts to put an end to a child’s nightmare, this was far from the first time I shut down an online child predator who duped his victim into sending intimate images and videos. Whether the stalker hails from the United States, Brazil, Canada, Kenya, Philippines, or any other country, it certainly won’t be the last. While the first line of defense is teaching your children that he or she should not post or share sexual or intimate images or videos online, or share the same with anyone, it is also critical that your child knows he or she can trust you without judgment should they make a mistake. Shaming or embarrassing them further, responding with anger, or giving them a reason not to trust you could be catastrophic especially in their already fragile state. There is no place for judgment when it comes to protecting your child today and for the future.
While Saland Law, PC is available 24/7 to protect and assist Stalking, Extortion, and Blackmail victims as well as those on the receiving end of some other form of harassment, remember that before you act in haste or fear, preserve every communication with an abuser and do not block your victimizer. It is this evidence that may mean the difference between stopping or prosecuting an extorter, or finding yourself in an emotionally, socially, and financially untenable place.
Saland Law, PC, founded by Jeremy Saland, a former Manhattan prosecutor, is a law firm representing victims and targets of harassment in all its forms whether online or off, the accused and victims in criminal matters, intimate partners as respondents and petitioners in petitions for Orders of Protection, and parties to collegiate Title IX and code of conduct investigations.