Alleged Victim ID’d in|Gay Porn Actor’s Trial

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – A Florida-based tycoon was identified as the target of an alleged $1.5 million extortion attempt by a gay porn actor during the first day of the actor’s criminal trial.
     Taking the stand Tuesday afternoon in U.S. District Judge’s John Walter’s courtroom, Donald Burns of Palm Beach said he paid defendant Teofil Brank $1,500 to $2,500 each time the actor referred him to male models and adult performers.
     He said he also paid to have sex with Brank at least four times.
     “It was partly a coping mechanism from the loss of my long-term relationship,” Burns said in response to a prosecutor who questioned why he had paid Brank to help set him up with the men.
     The Smoking Gun website in April identified Burns as the alleged victim in the federal government’s case.
     But Burns, who jurors heard is worth close to $140 million, successfully moved to have his identity kept secret until trial.
     The businessman has a stake in Internet phone company Magicjack Vocaltec. He was a co-founder of the Telco Communications Group and controls the Donald A. Burns Foundation.
     Brank, who performs as Jarec Wentworth, was charged in March with extortion and making criminal threats after the FBI arrested him in a sting at a Starbucks parking lot in El Segundo.
     Federal prosecutors say Brank extorted Burns and threatened to ruin his reputation by posting sexually explicit photos on Twitter.
     Brank made the demands via text message from his smartphone after posting comments aimed at Burns on Twitter, the government says.
     With Brank sitting to his left, Burns told prosecutor Kimberly Jaimez that he found the threats “chilling” and that he was terrified that anything Brank posted on Twitter would “spread like wildfire.”
     To extinguish the threats, Burns said, he gave in to demands to wire $500,000 to Brank’s Wells Fargo bank account, and gave up his Audi R8 sports car.
     As Brank made more demands, prosecutors say, Burns went to the FBI.
     During opening statements, prosecutor Eddie Jauregui told the 14-person jury that Burns had a “taste for young men,” paid Brank and other models and performers to engage in sex parties, and had group sex at a La Jolla hotel.
     Burns said he had jetted male models and performers in the sex industry to and from the trysts. He offered money to other men if they referred him to models and actors, he testified.
     Jauregui said the relationship turned sour when Brank failed to deliver an escort he had promised but refused to return Burns’ money. Burns told Brank early this year that he no longer felt comfortable working with him, the prosecutor said.
     Burns had agreed to wire Brank $500,000 and allowed him to pick up his Audi from his residence in La Jolla, because he was terrified that Brank would follow through.
     “He wanted the Twitter post down and the whole thing to go away,” Jauregui told the jurors, urging them to find Brank guilty of extortion.
     But Brank’s attorney Seema Ahmad said her client neither threatened nor harmed Banks.
     Ahmad said that Brank was part of an “elite” gay pornography pay site called Seancody.com and that Burns had emailed Brank a list of 11 Sean Cody models. She said Burns suggested that Brank could earn about $22,000 if he delivered the referrals.
     According to Ahmad, Burns “groomed” the men to whom he was referred, offering to help them look for modeling opportunities outside the adult entertainment industry.
     “Just like he groomed the men, he groomed Teofil Brank,” Ahmad said.
     The attorney argued that Burns had given Brank the Audi and $500,000 because he “owed” him after their two-year relationship.
     Earlier Tuesday, the government’s first witness, FBI Agent Sean Sterle, testified about events leading to Brank’s arrest.
     After Burns went to the FBI, Brank demanded $1 million in cash and title to the Audi, Sterle said.
     Sterle testified that he posed as Burns’ business associate when he met Brank inside the Starbucks on the evening of March 4.
     After handing over title to the Audi, Brank told the agent, “And?” Sterle testified, noting that Brank appeared cautious and had a hoodie up.
     Sterle said he told Brank: “It’s your lucky day. You ready to get paid?”
     Outside the Starbucks, Sterle told Brank the money was in a backpack in the trunk of the black Tesla he had driven to the takedown. As Sterle popped the trunk and reached inside to open the bag, agents moved in and wrestled Brank to the ground.
     Brank’s friend Etienne Yim was waiting in the parking lot in a Ford hatchback after Brank’s arrest, prosecutors say. He allegedly told agents that Brank had asked him to bring a gun to the meeting.
     Jauregui told jurors during opening statements that Brank had told Yim that if anyone shot at him to “shoot back.”
     Agents found a Colt Magnum revolver, six rounds of ammunition and the Samsung smartphone Brank had used to make the alleged extortion demands.
     Burns was to continue his testimony Wednesday morning.

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