Extortion is the act of one party using fear, threats, fear of the use of threats, or something of leverage in order to gain an unfair advantage, often to obtain money or material goods or some other desired results in the extruded target.

When Extortion is Often Called Blackmail:

The terms “extortion” and “blackmail” are often used interchangeably because of the similarity of their meanings. Extortion is a crime that is often related to the term “Mafia” or organized crime.

Example of Extortion:

Person A may say to person B: “If you give me your new car I won’t burn down your house.” Now, that’s not quite much of a choice but it is a clear example of extortion. Extortion often uses psychological examples and premises to induce fear, in an effort to obtain the desired goal.

Example of Extortion: 

A corrupted official such as a code compliance officer may request extra funds from a store owner so that he (the compliance officer) won’t file false charges and take the case to court. Even if there is no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the victim, he is likely to feel compelled to succumb to the orders of the compliance officer. If the victim brings the story to light, he – or his family – may face additional threats of monetary or physical harm.

Example of Extortion:

A government official with a clean record is running for mayor, but a jealous adversary has photoshopped photos of the candidate with a woman other than his wife, in suggesting positions. The candidate is requested to vote a certain way on one of the issues, or face the consequences. The one attempting to extort the official is using doctored physical images to get his way.

Laws Against Extortion

Section 25, Attempted Extortion, Punishment:

Every state has laws that prohibit extortion. In Massachusetts, Under General Laws, Part IV, Section 25, it is clearly illegal to extort a crime. Using language such as “Whoever verbally or by written or printed communication maliciously threatens to accuse another of a crime or offense, or by a verbal or written or printed communication….with the intent being to extort money or use any pecuniary advantage, or with the intent to compel any person to do any act against his will:

Punishment:  15 years prison, or 2.5 years house of correction; and/or

Fine:                $5,000, or both

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Michael S. Berg
Attorney At Law