Larceny by Extortion
As all experienced New York white-collar criminal defense lawyers know, Extortion in New York is not a separate crime but a unique form of Grand Larceny under Article 155 of the Penal Law. Like the related offense of Coercion, the crime of Extortion similarly involves the use of threats or intimidation to achieve a criminal purpose. Unlike the offense of Coercion, however, that purpose is the acquisition of property. The most obvious example of an extortionate exchange of property is, of course, the receipt of money “in return for leaving the victim or his business alone.” People v. Spatarella, 34 N.Y.2d 157, 162 (1974). Under the laws of New York, business transactions and personal favors between business professionals can also serve as a factual predicate for a charge of Extortion since the crime can conceivably encompass “threats to engage in conduct that is otherwise legal” as well as a “lawful demand for an unlawful reason.” People v. Feldman, 7 Misc.3d 794, 811 (Kings Co. Crim. Ct. 2005) (internal citations and alterations omitted).
As evident by its name in New York – Larceny by Extortion – Extortion, at its core, is a crime of theft. As such, no matter how serious the threats may have been or the intimidation displayed, prosecutors in New York City, Long Island or Westchester must prove a transfer or exchange of property between you or your agent and the alleged victim as an element of the offense. Without proof beyond a reasonable doubt of this exchange, there can be no conviction for Extortion. Unfortunately, what you or the best New York white-collar criminal defense attorneys would logically think of as the type of property that could be obtained in a robbery or larceny-type offense is often not the property or loss at issue – in Spatarella, a profitable “business relationship” – in an extortion case.
Additionally, as a larceny-type offense under Article 155 of the New York Penal Law, the value of the money or tangible property taken as a result of a scheme of Extortion can aggravate the level of offense ultimately charged at arraignment. For example, if pursuant to threats or intimidation, you allegedly obtained cash valued at over $10,000 then you may be charged with Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a D felony offense. But unlike other crimes of Larceny or Embezzlement, Extortion may be charged as a felony regardless of the value of property obtained. The least serious Extortion offense is the E felony offense of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree under Section 155.30 (6) of the New York Penal Law and can result in a sentence of incarceration of up to 4 years in prison. And if prosecutors allege your act of extortion included threats of violence or, if you are a police officer or public official, the threatened use or abuse of your power due to your position, the charge may be enhanced to the C felony offense of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. It does not take a top New York criminal lawyer to tell you that any period of incarceration in a prison upstate is not a situation you’d ever want to be in.
If you or a loved one has been arrested on state charges of Extortion or the similar white-collar criminal offenses of Bribery or Official Corruption in New York, don’t wait to start preparing a defense to the charges. Contact one of our top New York white-collar criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman. We can be reached at (212) 581-1001 for the scheduling of a confidential consultation to discuss the particularities of your case. Our resources and experience handling the defense of white-collar charges brought by the state or federal government may spell the difference between an acquittal and incarceration for serious felony offense.
For more information on New York’s white-collar offenses of Coercion and Extortion, additional articles written by our experienced white-collar crime defense attorneys may be found here.