Entries in Extortion (6)


Drug Cartel Attacks U.S.-Owned Potato Chip Company

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(GUANAJATO, Mexico) -- Mexican authorities arrested four alleged members of the Knights Templar drug cartel after a series of firebomb attacks on a potato chip company owned by the U.S. food company PepsiCo, the first attack on an American multinational firm in Mexico's ongoing drug war.

Five warehouses and parking lots owned by the popular Sabritas brand were attacked over the weekend in the states of Michoacan and Guanajato. Witnesses said masked men had thrown firebombs and incinerated warehouses and dozens of delivery trucks. No one was injured in the bombings, according to authorities.

The attorney general of Guanajato, Carlos Zamarippa Aguirre, alleged that the men arrested had confessed that the motive of the attacks was extortion. Aguirre said the suspects gave false names but were identified by fingerprints and at least one, the alleged cell leader, was already wanted on charges of kidnapping.

Emails that circulated in Michoacan, however, suggested the attacks may have been revenge attacks by members of the Knights Templar who believe that Mexican authorities use the snack-food trucks to spy on the cartel. The company has nearly 15,000 delivery trucks in Mexico, many featuring a smiley face and the slogan, "You can't eat just one." Cheetos, Fritos, Ruffles and Doritos as well as Sabritas potato chips are sold under the Sabritas name in Mexico.

PepsiCo released a statement Sunday that emphasized the company's trucks are used only for company business. "We repeat that in accordance with our code of conduct, all of our operations are carried out in the current regulatory framework and our vehicles and facilities are used exclusively to carry our products to our customers and clients," said the statement.

The company also said that it was already taking steps to "restore operations" and that the safety of employees is always its highest priority.

The Knights Templar drug cartel is a relatively small and new entrant in Mexico's drug war, and is active in the Pacific coast states of Michoacan and Guanajato. Formed two years ago as an offshoot of Christian-tinged La Familia Michoacana cartel, the "Caballeros Templarios" model themselves on the original Knights Templar, a Christian military order established in Europe 900 years ago that was active in the Crusades.

The original Knights Templar, known for white tunics with large red crosses, fought to protect Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem and to recover the mythic Holy Grail, from which the disciples of Jesus supposedly drank during the Last Supper.

During initiation ceremonies, recruits to the drug cartel wear helmets similar to those worn by medieval knights and common in Mexican Easter ceremonies. Cartel members swear blood oaths and are issued Templar rulebooks. The cartel issued a very public call for a ceasefire during Pope Benedict's visit to Mexico in March.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Joran Van Der Sloot’s Lawyer Says US Extradition Inevitable

Sebastian Silva/AFP/Getty Images(LIMA, Peru) -- The extradition of Joran van der Sloot to the U.S. on charges of wire fraud and extortion in connection with the death of Natalee Holloway will likely take place this summer, his lawyer told ABC News Tuesday.

“The power of the United States will assure that Joran has to face a U.S. judge and I think the extradition will happen probably in two or three months,” Maximo Altez said in an exclusive interview with ABC News.

Altez spoke to ABC News after van der Sloot appeared in a jailhouse courtroom at Piedras Gordas prison, about two hours north of Lima.

Peruvian Judge Zenaida Vilca heard arguments by U.S. Justice Department officials pushing for the extradition while Altez opposed the move on grounds his client could not receive a fair trial in a U.S. court.

The Dutch national is currently serving a 28-year sentence for the murder of Stephany Flores, a Peruvian woman whom van der Sloot admitted to strangling in his Lima hotel room two years ago.

He is also the main suspect in the disappearance of Holloway in 2005 on the Caribbean island of Aruba, where van der Sloot had lived most of his life.

Van der Sloot, appearing nervous and thinner than in previous appearances, was marched by prison officials to the courtroom, handcuffed and refusing to answer questions posed by nearby reporters.

The maximum-security jail is in a sparsely populated area of rolling desert-like hills. On one of the mountains overlooking the facility is the slogan "Cristo Vive" (Christ Lives) in huge white block letters and below are the tents of some very poor squatters.

Altez spoke with ABC News after the court appearance and said van der Sloot was “very upset with the prospect of being extradited to the U.S. I haven’t seen Joran so down, so depressed since I took on his defense almost two years ago.”

The extortion and wire fraud charges relate to payments allegedly made to van der Sloot by the Holloway family for information on the whereabouts of their daughter’s body.

In court U.S. legal officials argued that there is evidence that will show that van der Sloot arranged for and accepted those payments. Altez says that van der Sloot was lured into taking those payments and that it wasn’t on his client’s initiative.

Although the judge and other Peruvian legal authorities claim van der Sloot will have to return to Peru to finish out his 28-year sentence, Altez thinks differently.

“Once he’s in the U.S. there are no guarantees that he would not be charged with Holloway’s murder although no such evidence exists,” he said.

The next step involves the judge sending her decision to Peru’s Supreme Court, expected within the next week to 10 days, and the high court then giving its stamp of approval to the extradition. At that point, only government ministers or the president can stop the process, which is highly unlikely, according to most observers.

“It’s not in our interest that Joran be judged in the U.S. because he is despised there. You could not find an impartial jury to try him,” said Altez, who said he will try to stop the extradition “by all legal means possible.”

“There’s not much you can do when you’re up against the most powerful country in the world,” he added.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Investment Banker Pleads Guilty in Fake 'Collar Bomb' Extortion Plot

Comstock/Thinkstock(SYDNEY) -- An investment banker pled guilty Thursday to charges he broke into a Sydney, Australia, mansion and strapped a fake "collar bomb" around an 18-year-old girl's neck in a failed extortion attempt.

Paul Douglas Peters, 51, appeared in the Sydney courtroom by video link from prison, while his lawyer, Kathy Crittenden, entered the plea on his behalf.

Peters, a former Kentucky resident, reportedly entered the home of Madeleine Pulver in a wealthy suburb of Sydney on Aug. 3 wearing a ski mask and carrying an aluminum baseball bat. After telling her, "Sit down and no one needs to get hurt," Peters strapped a bomb-like device around the girl's neck. He then left her with a note and a computer thumb drive. The note gave instructions to transfer money to Peters and warned that the bomb would explode if removed.

After examining the device for more than 10 hours, police determined the "collar bomb" was a fake and removed it from around the girl's neck. Pulver was uninjured in the incident.

Pulver's father, Bill Pulver, is the chief executive of the software company Appen Butler Hill that specializes in voice recognition software, causing speculation that the extortion attempt specifically targeted the girl's family. Though Peters reportedly worked for a company linked to the Pulver family, they deny ever meeting him before. Observers have also speculated, however, that Peters may have been targeting an affluent acquaintance who also lived in the neighborhood and simply went to the wrong house.

New South Wales police and the FBI arrested Peters at the five-bedroom home of his ex-wife in a suburb of Louisville, Kentucky, on Aug. 15. He was later extradited to Australia where formal charges were made. Peters is a successful investment banker, whose international business caused him to travel often between Australia and the U.S. An Australian native, he had also worked in Hong Kong and Malaysia.

"A poor decision by one man has prompted a truly extraordinary and inspiring response from many thousands of people and we will be forever grateful," Bill Pulver said following Thursday's hearing.

Peters will appear in court later this month for sentencing and faces up to 20 years in prison.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Couple Arrested for Blackmailing Italian PM Berlusconi

Photo Courtesy - Governo.It(ROME) -- Police arrested a couple for allegedly extorting money from Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Officials say 36-year-old Gianpaolo Tarantini paid escorts to attend Berlusconi's infamous bunga bunga parties. Tarantini, together with his wife 34-year-old Angela Devenuto, received half a million euros from Berlusconi as payment for telling prosecutors that the 74-year-old was unaware that women at his parties were prostitutes.

Berlusconi admits to the payments but says he paid them as an act of charity to a family in need. In addition to the 500,000 euro, the premier made monthly payments to the couple through an intermediary, Valter Lavitola, who is wanted by police.

Police listened to phone conversations between the couple and Lavitola in which they learnt of the scheme. They say Berlusconi received implied threats despite his denial to the contrary.

While Berlusconi is a victim in this case, he is facing a legal battle in Milan after allegations he had sex with a 17-year-old Moroccan woman and aided in her release after she was arrested for suspicion of theft.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Australian Bomb Hoax: Father Holds Press Conference

(NEWCASTLE, Australia )-- William Pulver , the father of 18-year-old Madeleine who was at the center of a tense police operation in Sydney Wednesday, says his family is eager for their lives to return to normal.

Pulver held a press conference in Sydney where he thanked police and other emergency services and praised his daughter’s courage.  He also said his daughter Maddie wanted to personally thank the officers who sat in her immediate vicinity during the ordeal. 

Pulver said that Maddie woke up the next morning “tired and a little sore (after) holding this damn device in place for about 10 hours…and she is now eager as we are to get on with her life. “  

The teenage girl had reportedly been ambushed by a masked man in the family mansion, who placed what appeared to be an explosive device around her neck in an extortion plot. After police were alerted, neighbors were evacuated and streets blocked off. The Pulvers, said to be one of Sydney's wealthiest families

New South Wales Police say they were called to the house, and after lengthy examinations by officers from the Rescue and Bomb Disposal Squad, Madeleine Pulver was safely reunited with her parents around midnight. The device turned out to be a fake bomb.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Australian Bomb Collar Victim Saved, Reunited with Parents

Agri Press/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- The 18-year-old daughter of an Australian millionaire was the victim of a “bomb collar” early Wednesday morning.

Police sources said the bomb was attached to the neck of Madeleine Pulver, 18, with a note demanding money from her father William Pulver, the CEO of an international software company.

Nearby homes were evacuated and surrounding streets closed off while bomb squad experts helped extricate the young woman. Earlier, Assistant Police Commissioner Mark Murdoch had described the situation as a "very serious and sensitive matter".

It has been confirmed that Madeleine has been reunited with her parents and a press conference is expected.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio