The Crime of Extortion Explained

 Posted on April 11, 2019 in White Collar Crime

Illionois defense attorney,  Illinois criminal defense lawyerIt was in late March that Michael Avenatti, the attorney that became famous while representing Stormy Daniels, was arrested on multiple charges, including extortion.  Extortion becomes a federal crime when certain factors are involved, such as the use of mail or computer communication to extort someone, or when the victim of the crime is a federal employee or public official.

There are many different types of extortion covered under the United States Code, and each carries its own penalties. When a person is facing charges of extortion, it is important they speak to a federal criminal defense attorney that can help them retain their freedom.

What Is Extortion?

Extortion occurs when a person uses force or threatens to use force in order to take money or something else of value from another person. This threat of harm is essential to any extortion case, but that does not mean the harm must be physical in nature. A person charged with extortion may threaten financial harm, destruction of property, and abuse of power.

One type of extortion is known as ‘protection.’ In these types of cases, a person may promise that the victim will not experience any harm, as long as the victim provides them with something of value. For example, one person may promise a person’s family will be kept safe if they make a payment in a certain amount.

When someone uses information to extort another person, this is often charged as blackmail. In addition, when large-scale extortion occurs, such as when the act is committed on behalf of organized crime, it may be prosecuted as a racketeering case.

Federal Laws on Extortion

Federal law outlines ten different crimes relating to extortion. These are found in 18 U.S. Code Chapter 41, Section 871 - 880. The different crimes included in this section include:

  • Threats against the President and successors to the President;
  • Extortion committed by federal employees or officers;
  • Blackmail;
  • Kickbacks from public works employees;
  • Interstate communications;
  • Sending threatening communications through the mail;
  • Sending threatening communications while in a foreign country;
  • Threats against foreign officials, or individuals that have international protection;
  • Threats against former Presidents and public officials; and
  • Receiving proceeds from any extortion.

When accused of extortion, a person may be charged with any one or more of these crimes.

Penalties for Extortion

The penalties for extortion if a person is convicted will vary depending on which section of the U.S. Code their alleged crime falls under. Blackmail, for example, carries a penalty of up to one year in prison and a fine. Mailing threatening communications, on the other hand, carries a much harsher penalty of up to 20 years in federal prison.

Due to the fact that extortion charges can involve a number of different crimes, those facing charges should speak to an attorney that can help them understand their specific situation.

Contact an Illinois Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer

Extortion charges are very serious. Anyone that has been accused should speak to a skilled Chicago federal criminal defense attorney for professional assistance. If you have been charged with any of the extortion charges outlined in the U.S. Code, call the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel at 312-629-0669. We will review the facts of your case, ensure your rights are upheld in court and build a solid defense that will help you retain your freedom. Do not try to face these charges on your own. Call us today or fill out our online form for your free case evaluation.


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