Extortion is a crime that involves extracting money or other assets from a person through threats or intimidation. The threats can involve threats of violence, of damage to the victim’s property or harm to one’s family, to one’s reputation, or some other type of harm. In extortion, the victim consents to the crime of paying off the aggressor out of fear of retaliation for not complying. Of course, this consent is obtained in an illegal manner. The crime of extortion can be committed by public officials as well as by private individuals or corporations.
Extortion can be committed as a state or federal crime depending on the circumstances. In Massachusetts, extortion is defined as obtaining money or property from another by threatening the victim with violence, with damage to property, harm to his or her reputation, or adverse government action.
The Elements of Extortion
The elements of extortion include the following:
- Threatening the victim
- Intending to deprive the victim of money or assets
- Intending to put the victim into a state of fear; this fear can be based on just about anything from fear of having a personal secret revealed to fear of deportation, fear of being assaulted, fear of losing one’s social standing, and more
- Obtaining money or property or other assets; besides cash, these can include goods, services, businesses or liquor licenses, sexual favors, and even agreements concerning business or other matters
To be charged with extortion, it is generally not necessary to complete the act, as even the attempt to extort something using the above elements is considered a crime.
Examples of Extortion
One of example of extortion that is commonly seen in movies and on TV is the “protection money” scam where victims are forced to pay money to a local crime boss in exchange for having their businesses protected from other criminals or some other supposed threat. The money can also be demanded so as the crime boss and his minions do not themselves harm the victim.
Another example of extortion is when the offender threatens the individual with bringing legal or law enforcement action against the victim even when the offender has been legitimately wronged. When involving the internet, extortion involves threatening a victim with malicious cyber activity; the victim is required to pay off the offender to keep the data breach or other attack from taking place. When extortion offenses involve public officials, an example would be a public official seeking payment to influence some official government matter; such misconduct is considered corrupt.
Penalties for Extortion
Extortion is generally a felony offense. It is commonly punished by fines and/or imprisonment. Fines for a conviction of this offense can vary but may be as high as $10,000 or more per each conviction. Prison terms can be as high as 20 years. If convicted, you may also be required to pay restitution to the victim and will likely face probation that will involve complying with certain conditions imposed by the court.
Bring Your Case to Martin G. Weinberg Attorney at Law
Extortion is a serious state and federal crime. If you’re under investigation or have been charged, you will need a defense attorney who can fight back aggressively both in and out of court. Our criminal defense attorney routinely takes on complex and challenging cases and has earned a reputation for being an outstanding advocate for clients nationwide.
Ready to discuss your case and legal options? Contact us through our online request form or at (617) 227-3700 today.