Following a months-long investigation involving the Seattle Police Department, the King County Prosecutor’s Office, the FBI, and other local police agencies, detectives arrested a 46-year-old man Thursday for a corporate extortion scheme. The investigation lead officers across the country searching for the evidence of the crime.
The victim in this case is a tax software company based in downtown Seattle. This company has about 1,200 employees with satellite offices around the United States.
The suspect in this case worked for the company for three months in the summer of 2016 and abruptly quit in October of 2016. He then started demanding “severance pay,” which was denied as wholly unwarranted and unusual. He told them that a previous employer payed him $150,000, going so far as a to show a copy of a check. The investigation later revealed that in 2013 one of his previous employers did pay him $150,000 after four of their employees had their homes and cars vandalized with graffiti. Investigators found multiple other incidents of similar conduct by the suspect during the investigation.
Then, from November to January of 2017, twelve employees and customers of the company had their homes and cars vandalized with graffiti. The MO was identical to the suspect’s interaction with his previous employer. During this time he continued to demand that the company pay him “severance.” He said it was “war” and that only he could end it.
There was no activity from late January until May when two additional employees in Durham, North Carolina had their homes and cars damaged with graffiti identical the incidents in Washington State down to using the same language. The suspect subsequently demanded that the company pay him $150,000 “severance” but denied knowing anything about vandalism.
With the assistance of the FBI and a series of search warrants, investigators obtained flight records of the suspect flying to Charlotte, North Carolina, video of him renting a car, and obtained location information showing him driving 140 miles from Charlotte to Durham and back the night of the vandalism.
Over the last couple weeks he continued to email the company; he remained steadfast in his demand for $150,000. The payment was scheduled for the afternoon of June 29. However, shortly after noon on June 29, he was arrested at a local bank as he was setting up a new account in which it appears he intended to deposit the $150,000 he thought he was getting from the company. Detectives booked the suspect into the King County Jail for investigation of extortion.