Pennsylvania Extortion Defense Attorney
Protecting Your Rights if You are Facing Extortion Charges
Extortion is a criminal offense that involves a person or group making threats to gain money, property, or certain actions from a victim. This should not be confused with bribery, which involves paying someone as an incentive to do something illegal. Instead, extortion induces victims to comply with certain requests against their will and out of fear.
Extortion may or may not involve threats of violence, but all extortion cases are treated seriously by the government. While extortion can be prosecuted on the state level, when an act involves interstate commerce, the internet, mail, phone, text, or other types of wireless communication, it can fall under federal law. In such cases, extortion can be prosecuted in by the U.S. Attorney and tried in federal criminal court.
If you are suspected of any type of extortion scheme, you can face harsh penalties. The criminal process is complex, and you should never leave your rights and freedom to chance. Instead, immediately contact a highly experienced white collar criminal defense lawyer who understands how to defend against extortion charges. Call the law office of Brian Zeiger in Philadelphia today.
Examples of Extortion Allegations
Extortion can happen in many ways, and each case will involve specific details and allegations.
- “Pay me or I will expose all of your secrets.”
- “Sign the contract or I will make sure your company goes under.”
- “Help me commit this crime or I will hurt your family.”
- “Vote a certain way or I’ll destroy your reputation.”
The above examples show how people can threaten another’s finances, reputation, well-being, or loved ones in exchange for something of value. Extortion is commonly portrayed in movies and other entertainment in the context of mobs, gangs, and drug cartels. In reality, extortion can happen to almost anyone, and commonly involves politicians. It can also involve providing certain protections for victims as long as they comply with orders—and threatening to remove those protections if they choose not to comply Federal law addresses specific types of illegal acts that constitute extortion:
- Threats against the president, vice president, or presidential successors
- Extortion by employees or officers of the U.S. government
- Public employees providing kickbacks
- Threats made using interstate communications
- Threats made via the U.S. mail system or from a foreign country
- Threats against protected individuals from foreign countries or foreign officials
The law also makes criminal acts of accepting of property, money, or any other benefits from extortion—even if you were not the one making the initial threat. This is similar to accepting stolen goods even if you did not physically steal them.
You may think that extortion takes place in shady bars or office basements. However, these days, people can become victims of extortion simply by checking their email. Cyberextortion is a relatively new tactic and can involve extortionists taking control of large numbers of corporate files and locking them—then demanding a ransom to unlock them again.
No matter what type of allegations an extortion case involves, the penalties can be severe. Extortion can happen in many different ways, and federal authorities are constantly conducting complex investigations into suspected extortion schemes. Often, individuals can get wrapped up in extortion investigations or prosecutions simply because of an association with a certain group or individual when, in reality, they were not involved at all.
Possible Penalties for Extortion Convictions
In Pennsylvania, the penalties for extortion will depend on the value of the funds or property that were wrongfully taken. Anything more than $2,000 can be charged as a felony, and the defendant may face prison and fines of $15,000 or more, depending on how much was taken.
Federal law divides extortion offenses into two main categories for the purposes of sentencing:
- Blackmail and similar forms of extortion
- Extortion involving threats of injury, force, or serious damage to the victim
The latter comes with significantly more serious minimum sentences under the federal sentencing guidelines. In both cases, however, the exact prison sentence will also factor in the value of the property taken. Sentencing may also factor in whether an individual played a key role in the extortion scheme or was merely ancillary.
Why You Need a Qualified Extortion Defense Attorney
Prison is almost always a possibility in extortion cases, especially since federal cases can involve large-scale schemes involving extensive amounts of money. In any extortion case, then, get the best quality of defense representation possible.
Common defenses against extortion charges include the following:
- The prosecution has insufficient evidence to prove every element of extortion on a defendant’s part beyond a reasonable doubt.
- The money was given or received as legitimate indemnification, restitution, or for some other reason not involving coercion.
- The so-called victim has a motive for false accusations and may even be blackmailing the defendant.
While a defendant may have been closely associated with others involved in an extortion scheme, she had no knowledge of or part in the scheme.
Specific legal defenses available will differ in each case. Always have an experienced criminal defense attorney carefully evaluate all of the circumstances surrounding your allegations. He can identify every possible way to defend you and protect your rights.
Call an Experienced Federal Extortion Defense Lawyer as Soon as Possible
Extortion and blackmail are only two of many theft-related white collar crimes that the state or federal government may prosecute. No matter what specific charges you face or in which court, always take any type of criminal case seriously. A criminal conviction can affect your finances, freedom, job, reputation, and more. Never risk a wrongful conviction or face unnecessarily harsh penalties.
The law firm of Brian Zeiger regularly defends clients facing serious criminal allegations and knows how to handle these complex federal cases. To discuss your case, please call (215) 546-0340 or contact us online today.