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Extortion

Extortion

Extortion is the act of taking money, property or services from a person, entity, or institution by wrongfully using real or threatened force or violence. It is an offense originally associated with organized crime figures that would use threats of physical violence to collect gambling debts or demand protection money from small business owners. Today, it takes several forms, such as:

  • Blackmail and/or
  • Armed robbery

To be charged with extortion, it is not necessary to actually receive whatever it was you demanded. It is enough that you threatened or used violence to ask for it. You can also be arrested if you offer to “protect” someone from injury for payment.

New York extortion offenses

New York law treats most extortion offenses as crimes of coercion, which has two degrees: First and Second. There is another offense known as larceny by extortion. In the first instance, the victim is forced through violence or fear to take action while larceny involves the obtaining or withholding of property.

Coercion in the Second Degree

Coercion in the Second Degree (New York Penal Law § 135.60) is a Class A misdemeanor that applies when someone coerces another individual to:

  • Do something they could legally refuse to do, such as commit a sexual act,
  • Injure another person,
  • Damage property,
  • Refrain from doing something they have a legal right to do, such as accept a job offer and/or
  • Join an organization or group

This coercion must involve instilling fear in the person that if they do not comply, they risk physical harm to themselves or loved ones, property damage, or be exposed to contempt or ridicule. Upon conviction, a defendant can spend up to a year in jail.

Coercion in the First Degree

Coercion in the First Degree (NYPL § 135.65) , a Class D Felony, involves the elements of Coercion in the Second Degree with the following additions:

  • The victim is made to fear for themselves and their property and/or
  • he victim is induced to commit (or attempt to commit) a crime, seriously injure another person or violate their obligations as a public servant

If convicted, a defendant faces up to a seven-year sentence in a New York State prison.

Larceny

Larceny is the crime as defined by NYPL §150 in which one steals or withholds another person’s property with the intent to deny that person of the property. There are six degrees of larceny, ranging from Petit Larceny to Aggravated Grand Larceny. Each of these crimes is different, and range from an A Misdemeanor designation to a C Felony designation. Thus, there are various types of fines and lengths of imprisonment that a court may impose on a person convicted of larceny.

One may commit larceny by extortion as per NYPL § 150.05(2). That means that one attempts to steal physical property (commit larceny) by threatening to

  • Injure someone now or later,
  • Damage property,
  • Carry out a crime or accuse someone of a crime,
  • Expose a secret or insinuate negative testimony in a court of law,
  • Incite a strike or boycott and/or
  • Abuse a public servant position

The combination and degree of larceny and extortion may contribute to the final sentencing if the defendant is found guilty of the crime.

The Hobbs Act

The Hobbs Act is a federal law that makes it illegal to commit acts of extortion that affect interstate or foreign commerce. Threats issued by email or another form of communication across state lines can result in a charge under the Hobbs Act.

Anyone facing extortion charges in New York should speak with a criminal defense attorney immediately, as these charges typically arise from organized crime investigations. Federal courts are especially complicated if a person is accused of extortion activities that interfere with interstate or foreign commerce, so select an attorney with the skills and experience to bring about a successful outcome.

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