Extortion (also called shakedown, and, in a legal sense incorrectly, exaction) is obtaining benefit through coercion. In most jurisdictions it is likely to constitute a criminal offense, the bulk of this article deals with such cases.
Extortion is sometimes called the "protection racket" since the racketeers often phrase their demands as payment for "protection" from (real or hypothetical) threats from unspecified other parties; though often, and almost always, such "protection" is simply abstinence of harm from the same party, and such is implied in the "protection" offer. Extortion is commonly practiced by organized crime. Exaction refers not only to extortion or the demanding and obtaining of something through force, but additionally, in its formal definition, means the infliction of something such as pain and suffering or making somebody endure something unpleasant.
The term extortion is often used metaphorically to refer to usury or to price-gouging, though neither is legally considered extortion. It is also often used loosely to refer to everyday situations where one person feels indebted against their will, to another, in order to receive an essential service or avoid legal consequences.
In law extortion can refer to political corruption, such as selling one's office or influence peddling, but in general vocabulary the word usually first brings to mind blackmail or protection rackets. The logical connection between the corruption sense of the word and the other senses is that to demand bribes in one's official capacity is blackmail or racketeering in essence (that is, "you need access to this resource, the government restricts access to it through my office, and I will charge you unfairly and unlawfully for such access").
Extortion is distinguished from robbery. In robbery, whether armed or not, the offender takes property from the victim by the immediate use of force or fear that force will be immediately used. Extortion, which is not limited to the taking of property, involves the verbal or written instillation of fear that something will happen to the victim if they do not comply with the extortionist's will. Another key distinction is that extortion always involves a verbal or written threat, whereas robbery may not. In United States federal law, extortion can be committed with or without the use of force and with or without the use of a weapon.
In blackmail, which always involves extortion, the extortionist threatens to reveal information about a victim or their family members that is potentially embarrassing, socially damaging, or incriminating unless a demand for money, property, or services is met.
In the United States, extortion may also be committed as a federal crime across a computer system, phone, by mail, or in using any instrument of interstate commerce. Extortion requires that the individual sent the message willingly and knowingly as elements of the crime. The message only has to be sent (but does not have to reach the intended recipient) to commit the crime of extortion.
In England and Wales extorting property and money by coercion is the offence of blackmail which covers any "unwarranted demand with menaces" including physical threats. See section 21 of the Theft Act 1968 plus sections 29 and 30 of the Larceny Act 1916. A group of people may also be committing conspiracy.
Extortion is a common law offence in Scotland of using threat of harm to demand money, property or some advantage from another person. It does not matter whether the demand itself is legitimate (such as for money owed) as the offence can still be committed when illegitimate threats of harm are used.
Cyberextortion is when an individual or group uses the internet as an offensive force. The group or individual usually sends a company a threatening email stating that they have received confidential information about their company and will exploit a security leak or launch an attack that will harm the company's network. The message sent through the email usually demands money in exchange for the prevention of the attack.
In March 2008, Anthony Digati was arrested on federal charges of extortion through interstate communication. Digati put $50,000 into a variable life insurance policy by New York Life Insurance Company and wanted a return of $198,303.88. When the firm didn't comply, he threatened to send out 6 million spam emails. He registered a domain in February 2008 that contained New York Life's name in the URL to display false public statements about the company and increased his demand to $3 million. According to prosecutors, Digati's intent was not to inform or educate but he wanted to "damage the reputation of New York Life and cost the company millions of dollars in revenue,”. New York Life contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Digati was apprehended.
On February 15, 2011, Spanish police apprehended a man who attempted to blackmail Nintendo over customer information he had stolen. The man stole personal information about 4,000 users and emailed Nintendo Ibérica, Nintendo's Spanish division, and accused the company of data negligence. He threatened the company that he would make the information public and complain to the Spanish Data Agency if his demands were not met. After Nintendo ignored his demands, he published some of the information on an Internet forum. Nintendo notified authorities and the man was arrested in Málaga. No information has been revealed as to what the man demanded from Nintendo.
On February 7, 2019, Jeffrey P. Bezos, owner of Amazon and The Washington Post and currently the world's wealthiest person, accused the National Enquirer and its parent company American Media, Inc., of attempting to extort him by threatening to reveal nude pictures of him unless he publicly stated that he "[has] no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces." This threat was in response to Bezos investigating the tabloid for publishing details about his relationship with Lauren Sanchez, which led to Bezos and his wife Mackenzie announcing their divorce on January 9 of that year. Bezos refused and posted the threat on Medium.
On 6 August 2011, a U.S. CH-47D Chinook military helicopter operating with the call sign Extortion 17 (pronounced "one-seven") was shot down while transporting an Immediate Reaction Force attempting to reinforce a Joint Special Operations Command unit of the 75th Ranger Regiment in the Tangi Valley in Maidan Wardak province, southwest of Kabul, Afghanistan. The resulting crash killed all 38 people on board - 25 American special operations personnel, one pilot and two crewmen of the United States Army Reserve, one pilot and one crewman of the United States Army National Guard, seven members of the Afghan National Security Forces, and one Afghan interpreter, as well as a U.S. military working dog. At 31 American military personnel killed, the shoot down of Extortion 17 represents the greatest single-incident loss of American lives in Operation Enduring Freedom - Afghanistan, surpassing the sixteen lost in the downing of Turbine 33, a 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) MH-47, during Operation Red Wings on 28 June 2005.Black Hand (Chicago)
Black Hand extortion was a criminal tactic used by gangsters based in major cities in the United States. In Chicago, Black Hand extortion began around 1900 and had all but faded away by 1920, replaced by the "Mafia." The Mafia was initially organized by Johnny Torrio and further organized by Al Capone sometime later.
Black Handers in Chicago were mostly Italian men from Calabria and Sicilian men who would send anonymous extortion notes to their victims emblazoned with a feared old country symbol: the "Black Hand". The Black Hand was a precursor to organized crime (Mafia) although it is still a tactic practiced by the Mafia and used in organized crime to this day. Black Hand blackmail was also common in New York and New Orleans. Victims would pay up or be beaten, shot, or have their place of business bombed. Starting around 1909, The Black Hand was causing difficulties for mob boss Big Jim Colosimo a former Black hand gangster and owner of brothels throughout Chicago. In en effort to fix the problem Colosimo recruited Johnny Torrio, a member of New York's Five Points Gang who would eventually become the famous successor of Big Jim Colosimo and then later mentor Al Capone as the organized crime ruler of Chicago. But originally Torrio came to Chicago to fix the problem of the Black Hand which was threatening Colosimo's life with demands for cash to insure his physical safety.Black Hand (extortion)
Black Hand (Italian: Mano Nera) was a type of Italian extortion racket. It was a method of extortion, not a criminal organization as such, though gangsters of Camorra and the Mafia practiced it.Blackmail
Blackmail is an act of coercion using the threat of revealing or publicizing either substantially true or false information about a person or people unless certain demands are met. It is often damaging information, and may be revealed to family members or associates rather than to the general public. It may involve using threats of physical, mental or emotional harm, or of criminal prosecution, against the victim or someone close to the victim. It is normally carried out for personal gain, most commonly of position, money, or property.Blackmail may also be considered a form of extortion. Although the two are generally synonymous, extortion is the taking of personal property by threat of future harm. Blackmail is the use of threat to prevent another from engaging in a lawful occupation and writing libelous letters or letters that provoke a breach of the peace, as well as use of intimidation for purposes of collecting an unpaid debt.In many jurisdictions, blackmail is a statutory offense, often criminal, carrying punitive sanctions for convicted perpetrators. Blackmail is the name of a statutory offense in the United States, England and Wales, and Australia, and has been used as a convenient way of referring to certain other offenses, but was not a term used in English law until 1968.Blackmail originally meant payments rendered by settlers in the counties of England bordering Scotland in exchange for protection from Scottish thieves and marauders. The "mail" part of blackmail derives from Middle English male meaning "rent or tribute". This tribute (male or reditus) was paid in goods or labour ("nigri"); hence reditus nigri, or "blackmail". Alternatively, it may be derived from two Scottish Gaelic words blathaich - to protect; and mal - tribute or payment.David Thai
David Thai, born Thái Thọ Hoàng, is a Vietnamese born American gangster who was the founder and leader of the notorious Born to Kill gang during the late 1980s and early 1990s. He was also responsible for running a massive illegal counterfeit watch operation and at his peak controlled the market and distribution of counterfeit watches in New York by means of blackmail and extortion. He was the official leader of Born to Kill from 1988 until his arrest in 1991, which was the combination of months of investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in conjunction with the aid of a former gang member who defected from the gang and became an undercover informant, helping secure the convictions of David Thai and several of his high-ranking officers.Described as a sly, shrewd and lethal gangster, David Thai fashioned himself as a big brother and the protector to the Vietnamese community in Chinatown. Thai was described by T.J English and many others as being well dressed, usually wearing "a tailored sports coat, silk shirt and loft leather loafers," alongside a pair of sunglasses, and was said to have resembled more like a businessman than a gangster. During his interview with Peg Tyre after his arrest on murder charges in 1991 and other interviews that went on in the course of his trial, David often stated that he was trying to protect and help the Vietnamese community in Chinatown, often by giving the newly arrived refugees money and a place to live. In his interview with Peg Tyre, Thai went on to describe that he sacrificed his first marriage due to his "love for his Vietnamese brothers".On October 23, 1992, a United States federal judge in Brooklyn sentenced Thai to life in prison for murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, robbery, extortion, and related offenses. Federal prosecutors claimed that David Thai's life sentence significantly impaired Asian gang activity in New York.FBI files on Elvis Presley
The FBI files on Elvis Presley consist of records kept by the Federal Bureau of Investigation concerning Elvis Presley. These records consist of 683 pages of copies of letters from members of the public commenting on his performances, newspaper clippings, and documents reporting that Presley was the target of extortion attempts.Genovese crime family
The Genovese crime family (pronounced [dʒenoˈveːze; -eːse]) is one of the "Five Families" that dominate organized crime activities in New York City and New Jersey as part of the Mafia (or Cosa Nostra). The Genovese crime family are rivaled in size only by the Gambino crime family and are unmatched in terms of power. They have generally maintained a varying degree of influence over many of the smaller mob families outside New York, including ties with the Philadelphia, Patriarca, and Buffalo crime families.
The current "family" was founded by Charles "Lucky" Luciano, and was known as the Luciano crime family from 1931 to 1957, when it was renamed after boss Vito Genovese. Originally in control of the waterfront on the West Side of Manhattan and the Fulton Fish Market, the family was run for years by "the Oddfather", Vincent "the Chin" Gigante, who feigned insanity by shuffling unshaven through New York's Greenwich Village wearing a tattered bath robe and muttering to himself incoherently to avoid prosecution.
The Genovese family is the oldest and the largest of the "Five Families". Finding new ways to make money in the 21st century, the family took advantage of lax due diligence by banks during the housing bubble with a wave of mortgage frauds. Prosecutors say loan shark victims obtained home equity loans to pay off debts to their mob bankers. The family found ways to use new technology to improve on illegal gambling, with customers placing bets through offshore sites via the Internet.
Although the leadership of the Genovese family seemed to have been in limbo after the death of Gigante in 2005, they appear to be the most organized family and remain powerful. Unique in today's Mafia, the family has benefited greatly from members following "Omertà," a code of conduct emphasizing secrecy and non-cooperation with law enforcement and the justice system. While many mobsters from across the country have testified against their crime families since the 1980s, the Genovese family has only had 8 members turn state's evidence in its history.Hobbs Act
The Hobbs Act, named after Congressman Sam Hobbs (D-AL) and codified at 18 U.S.C. § 1951, is a U.S. federal law enacted in 1946 that provides:
(a) Whoever in any way or degree obstructs, delays, or affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce, by robbery or extortion or attempts or conspires to do so, commits, or threatens physical violence to any person or property in furtherance of a plan or purpose to do anything in violation of this section shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.
Section 1951 also proscribes conspiracy to commit robbery or extortion without reference to the conspiracy statute at 18 U.S.C. § 371. Although the Hobbs Act was enacted as a statute to combat racketeering in labor-management disputes, the statute is frequently used in connection with cases involving public corruption, commercial disputes, and corruption directed at members of labor unions.
The Hobbs Act criminalizes both robbery and extortion, where:
"robbery" means the unlawful taking or obtaining of personal property from the person or in the presence of another, against his will, and
"extortion" means the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right.Operation Old Bridge
Operation Old Bridge is the code name for the February 7, 2008 arrests in Italy and the United States that targeted the Gambino crime family. Among the indicted were the reputed acting bosses Jackie D'Amico, Nicholas Corozzo and Consigliere Joseph Corozzo of the Gambino crime family. The indictments included: murder, drug trafficking, robbery and extortion.Orangemoody editing of Wikipedia
On August 31, 2015, the English Wikipedia community discovered 381 sockpuppet accounts operating a secret paid editing ring. Participants in the ring extorted money from mid-sized businesses who had articles about themselves rejected. Nicknamed "Orangemoody" after the first account uncovered, it was Wikipedia's biggest conflict-of-interest scandal at the time, exceeding the scope of the Wiki-PR editing of Wikipedia incident in which approximately 250 sockpuppets were found and blocked in 2013.
The story was reported by hundreds of English language and non-English language news sources, including Komsomolskaya Pravda, Le Temps, Le Monde and Die Zeit. The editing was described by various media as "black hat" editors (TechCrunch), "dishonest editing" (PC World), "extortion" (Wired), a "blackmail scam" (The Independent), and an "extensive cybercrime syndicate" (ThinkProgress).Pizzo (mafia)
The pizzo (Italian: [ˈpittso]) is protection money paid to the Mafia often in the form of a forced transfer of money, resulting in extortion. The term is derived from the Sicilian pizzu ('beak'). To let someone wet their beak (Sicilian language "fari vagnari u pizzu") is to pay protection money. The practice is widespread in Southern Italy, not only by the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, but also by the 'Ndrangheta in Calabria and the Camorra in Campania.
Another etymological explanation of the term is "beakerful", referring to the right of an overseer to scoop from the grain being threshed by peasants. Paying the pizzo might also be in kind, for example by forcing a company to put someone (often a member of a criminal organisation) on the payroll, compulsory provision of services by Mafia controlled businesses as well as subcontracting to Mafia-controlled companies.Businesses that refuse to pay the pizzo might be burned down. In return, businesses receive "protection" and can enlist neighbourhood Mafiosi to cut through bureaucracy or resolve disputes with other tradesmen. Collecting the pizzo keeps the Mafia in touch with the community and allows it to "control their territory".The Mafia extorts more than 160 million euro a year from shops and businesses in the Palermo region, with the island as a whole paying 10 times that figure, investigators estimate. Around 80 per cent of Sicilian businesses pay up a pizzo. According to Palermo University, the pizzo averages 457 euros (640 dollars) a month for retail traders and 578 for hotels and restaurants, but construction companies are asked to pay over 2,000 euros per month according to economic daily Il Sole 24 Ore's figures.One of the first to refuse to pay protection money was Libero Grassi, a shopkeeper from Palermo. In January 1991, he wrote an open letter to the Giornale di Sicilia, the local newspaper. Published on the front page, it was addressed to an anonymous "Dear Extortionist". It caused an uproar and, later that same year, Grassi was murdered.In 2004, Addiopizzo – a grassroots social conscious-motivated consumer movement – frustrated with the Mafia's stranglehold on the local economy and political life, peppered Palermo with stickers stating: "An entire populace who pays pizzo is a mob without dignity." They organise demonstrations wearing black T-shirts with the Addiopizzo logo, a broken circle with an X in the middle and the words "consumo critico" (critical consumption).Protection racket
A protection racket is a scheme whereby a group provides protection to businesses or other groups through violence outside the sanction of the law. In other words, it is a racket that sells security, traditionally physical security but now also computer security. Through the credible threat of violence, the racketeers deter people from swindling, robbing, injuring, sabotaging or otherwise harming their clients. Protection rackets tend to appear in markets in which the police and judiciary cannot be counted on to provide legal protection, because of incompetence (as in weak or failed states) or illegality (black markets).
Protection rackets are indistinguishable in practice from extortion rackets and distinguishable from private security by some degree of implied threat that the racketeers themselves may attack the business if it fails to pay for their protection. A distinction is possible between a "pure" extortion racket in which the racketeers might agree only not to attack a business and a broader protection racket offering some real private security in addition to such extortion. The criminals might agree to defend a business from any attack by either themselves or third parties (other criminal gangs). However, that distinction is moot in reality, as extortion racketeers may have to defend their clients against rival gangs to maintain their profits. By corollary, criminal gangs may have to maintain control of territories (turfs), as local businesses may collapse if forced to pay for protection from too many rackets, which then hurts all parties involved.
Certain scholars, such as Diego Gambetta, classify criminal organizations engaged in protection racketeering as "mafia", as the racket is popular with both the Sicilian Mafia and Italian-American Mafia.Racket (crime)
A racket, according to the current common and most general definition, is an organized criminal act in which the criminal act is some form of substantial business, or a way to earn illegal money either regularly, or briefly but repeatedly. A racket is therefore generally a repeated or continuous criminal operation.
However, originally and often still specifically, a “racket” referred to a criminal act in which the perpetrator or perpetrators fraudulently offer a service to solve a nonexistent problem, a service that will not be put into effect, or a service that would not exist without the racket. Conducting a racket is racketeering. Particularly, the potential problem may be caused by the same party that offers to solve it, but that fact may be concealed, with the specific intent to engender continual patronage for this party.
The most common example of a racket is the "protection racket", which promises to protect the target business or person from dangerous individuals in the neighborhood and then either collects the money or causes damage to the business until the owner pays. The racket exists as both the problem and its solution, and it is used as a method of extortion.
However, the term "racket" has expanded in definition and may now be used less strictly to refer to any continuous or repeated illegal organized crime operation, including those that do not necessarily involve fraudulent practices. For example, "racket" may be used to refer to the "numbers racket" or the "drug racket", neither of which generally or explicitly involve fraud or deception with regard to the intended clientele.
Racketeering is most often associated with organized crime, and the term was coined by the Employers' Association of Chicago in June 1927 in a statement about the influence of organized crime in the Teamsters union.René Angélil
René Angélil, (French pronunciation: [ʁəˈne ɑ̃ʒeˈlil]; January 16, 1942 – January 14, 2016) was a Canadian musical producer, talent manager and singer. He was the manager (1981–2014) and husband (1994–2016; his death) of singer Céline Dion.Richard V. Gotti
Richard V. Gotti (born 1942) is a capo in the Gambino crime family.
Richard was born in 1942 to John Gotti, Sr. and his wife Fannie. Richard's brothers included deceased Gambino boss John, capo Gene, former boss Peter, and Vincent Gotti. They grew up in East New York, Brooklyn. Gotti has a son, Richard G. Gotti, who also belongs to the Gambino family. Gotti had a strange fascination with grass and would later work as a groundskeeper at Yankee Stadium. Gotti became a Gambino associate in 1962 and was first arrested in 1969 for statutory rape. Gotti was given the job of general manager for the Our Friends Social Club, at his brother John's urging. Gotti and an accomplice once tried to rob a high-stakes poker game in a Manhattan hotel room. Brandishing sawed-off shotguns, they demanded the players turn over their money. Hardly bothering to look up from their cards, the players told them to go to hell. The players then began throwing poker chips at them and chased them off down the hallway.
By 1988, Gotti had become a made man and by 1999 a caporegime.
On June 4, 2002, Richard was indicted on racketeering and extortion charges, mainly involving Gambino crimes at an International Longshoremen's Association local and the attempted extortion of actor Steven Seagal. On March 17, 2003, Gotti was convicted of extortion and money laundering. Gotti was later sentenced to 16 years in federal prison. He was released from prison on August 12, 2005.SPECTRE
SPECTRE (SPecial Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) is a fictional organisation featured in the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming, the films based on those novels, and James Bond video games. Led by evil genius and supervillain Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the international organization first formally appeared in the novel Thunderball (1961) and in the film Dr. No (1962). SPECTRE is not aligned to any nation or political ideology, enabling the later Bond books and Bond films to be regarded as somewhat apolitical, though the presence of former Gestapo members in the organisation are a clear sign of Fleming's warning of the Nazi fascists surviving after the Second World War first detailed in the novel Moonraker (1954). SPECTRE began in the novels as a small group of criminals but became a vast international organisation with its own SPECTRE Island training base in the films, to replace the Soviet SMERSH.Sextortion
Sextortion is a form of revenge porn that employs non-physical forms of coercion to extort sexual favors from the victim. Sextortion refers to the broad category of sexual exploitation in which abuse of power is the means of coercion, as well as to the category of sexual exploitation in which threatened release of sexual images or information is the means of coercion.As used to describe an abuse of power, sextortion is a form of corruption in which people entrusted with power – such as government officials, judges, educators, law enforcement personnel, and employers – seek to extort sexual favors in exchange for something within their authority to grant or withhold. Examples of such abuses of power include: government officials who request sexual favors to obtain licenses or permits, teachers who trade good grades for sex with students, and employers who make providing sexual favors a condition of obtaining a job.Sextortion also refers to a form of blackmail in which sexual information or images are used to extort sexual favors from the victim. Social media and text messages are often the source of the sexual material and the threatened means of sharing it with others. An example of this type of sextortion is where people are extorted with a nude image of themselves they shared on the Internet through sexting. They are later coerced into performing sexual acts with the person doing the extorting or are coerced into posing or performing sexually on camera, thus producing hardcore pornography. This method of blackmail is also frequently used to outing LGBT people who keep their true sexual orientation in reserve.A video highlighting the dangers of sextortion has been released by the National Crime Agency in the UK to educate people, especially given the fact that blackmail of a sexual nature may cause humiliation to a sufficient extent to cause the victim to take their own life, in addition to other efforts to educate the public on the risks of sextortion.Vanguard (Nigeria)
Vanguard is a daily newspaper published by Vanguard Media, based in Lagos, Nigeria. Vanguard Media was established in 1983 by veteran journalist Sam Amuka-Pemu with three friends.
The paper has an online edition.
The newspaper is one of the few in Nigeria that is considered independent of political control, the others being Thisday, The Punch, The Sun and The Guardian.
In June 1990, the paper was briefly suspended by Col. Raji Rasaki, Military Governor of Lagos State.In December 2008 the US-based Pointblanknews.com published a story that alleged the wife of the publisher of Vanguard Newspapers was involved in a ritual killing. The Vanguard took the reporter to court, claiming he was attempting extortion.
In December 2009, a Niger Delta peace activist commended Vanguard Newspaper for its reporting on the government's intentions, which he said helped persuade the militants to accept amnesty.Zee News
Zee News is an Indian pay television channel that was launched on 6 July 1999. It is also the flagship property of Zee Media, and a subsidiary of Essel Group. The channel is owned by Subhash Chandra, member of the Rajya Sabha as an independent candidate.
Types of crime
Note: Crimes vary by jurisdiction. Not all types are listed here.
|Against the person|
|Against public order|
|Against the state|