Extortion is a crime in which a person uses threats to obtain money or property from another person. Extortion is both a state and a federal crime which can come with a substantial prison sentence.
In New York, extortion occurs when a person obtains property by compelling or inducing another person to give him (or a third person) the property by using a fear that if the property isn’t delivered, he or she will hurt a person, damage some property, commit a crime, accuse a person of committing a crime, expose a secret, hurt a business by using a collective union, testify or withhold testimony, use his position as a public servant to hurt a person, or perform any other act that will hurt another person’s health, safety, business, finances, reputation or personal relationships. Extortion is commonly called blackmail.
Extortion is not to be confused with robbery or bribery. Bribery is giving money to someone in a position of trust in order to influence his or her behavior – for example, offering a senator money to vote a certain way. Robbery is threatening current violence against a party if he won’t give his property up – extortion is the threat of future violence or negative action. Robbery also involves taking something against a person’s will, while in extortion crimes the victim consents to give away the property. Some common examples of extortion include threatening to expose a secret about a public figure unless the person pays some money, threatening to tell a husband of his wife’s affair unless the wife meets a demand, or an IRS agent threatening an audit unless money is paid.
The punishments for extortion in New York City include prison time (the amount of which depends on the severity of the extortion and whether the defendant has committed other felonies), fines, probation and community service.