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Man Accused of Trying to Extort Insurer

(CN) - A California man was arrested Friday for allegedly trying to extort nearly $200,000 from a New York life insurance company by threatening to send out millions of spam e-mails blasting the company's integrity. "I think you get the idea," Anthony Digati allegedly warned executives on his Web site. "I am going to drag your company name and reputation through the muddiest waters imaginable."

Prosecutors charged Digati, 52, of Chino, with one count of extortion through interstate commerce after he allegedly e-mailed company executives a link to his Web site on Feb. 22, with a note that read, "I HIGHLY suggest you visit this website and contact me afterwards."

On his site, Digati posted a list of threats that he said "WILL HAPPEN on March 8, 2010" unless the company paid him $198,303.88, prosecutors say.

"I have 6 MILLION emails going out to couples with children age 25-40, this email campaign is ordered and paid for," Digati allegedly wrote. "2 million go out on the 8th and every two days 2 million more for three weeks rotating the list. Of course it is spam, I hired a spam service, I could care less, The damge [sic] will be done."

He allegedly continued: "I am a huge social networker, and I am highly experienced. 200,000 people will be directly contacted by me through social networks, slamming your integrity and directing them to this website within days. ...

"This will cost you millions in lost revenues, trust and credibility not to mention the advertising you will be buying to counter mine," he added, according to the complaint.

He also threatened to raise the demand to $3 million if the company didn't act immediately, prosecutors say.

If convicted, he faces up to 2 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the amount of the insurance company's losses.

George Venizelos, the FBI's acting assistant director in charge, lamented the negative side of the digital age:

"One blackmailer can, with mere keystrokes, spread damaging lies to millions," Venizelos said in a statement.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Kramer with the Criminal Fraud Unit is in charge of the prosecution.

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