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United States Attorney's Office
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Release No. 06-168

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PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 8, 2006
For Information, Contact Public Affairs
Thom Mrozek (213) 894-6947

CAREER CON MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO ATTEMPTING TO EXTORT MONEY FROM ATTORNEY RELATED TO CONVICTED MURDERER


Los Angeles, CA - A Los Angeles con man with a long string of fraud convictions has pleaded guilty to trying to extort $50,000 from an attorney whose brother is serving a life prison sentence for murder by claiming to have information that could exonerate the convicted killer.

Steven Robert Comisar, 44, who admitted to running the extortion scheme from a jail cell, pleaded guilty yesterday to using the mails to commit extortion by sending threatening letters to an attorney whose brother is the convicted murderer. Comisar now faces up to an additional five years in federal prison when he is sentenced on April 9 by United States District Court Judge George P. Schiavelli.

During a hearing yesterday afternoon in federal court in Los Angeles, Comisar admitted that from approximately October 2003 through late June 2004, he engaged in a scheme to extort money from the attorney and a second lawyer through the wrongful use of fear.

Comisar initially contacted the attorneys in the fall of 2003 to inform them that he had information that could help exonerate a man currently serving a life sentence in California state prison for murdering a government informant named Jessie Khorrami. At the time, Comisar was in custody at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in downtown Los Angeles awaiting sentencing in a telemarketing fraud case in which he swindled a retired Minneapolis businessman out of approximately $500,000.

Comisar sent the convict's sister a letter from MDC in October 2003, telling her that a former cellmate had confessed to Khorrami's murder. Comisar told the sister and the second lawyer, who represents the convict in a habeas corpus petition filed in his case, that Comisar believed the convict was innocent of the murder and that he would provide a declaration exonerating him. Comisar initially offered to provide the declaration for free, but then later demanded as much as $100,000 from the sister. When the attorneys refused to pay, Comisar sent them a series of letters in which he threatened to retract his declaration exonerating the convict and to report the attorneys to the California State Bar.

When that did not succeed, Comisar sent the convict's sister a letter in June 2004 titled "COLLECTION OF MONIES OWED ME," in which Comisar told her that if she did not send him $50,000 by a certain date, "the amount that will be collected from you by my associates in New York will be increased to $75,000. You can either do this the easy or the hard way. Either way I am going to get my money very quickly."

Comisar subsequently convinced a fellow inmate at MDC, William Dorman, to send his step-son, M.T., to the sister's house in the San Fernando Valley to deliver a threat. Comisar sent M.T. a letter with detailed instructions on how to scare the the woman into paying. The letter instructed M.T. to dress up, take the license plates off of his car so he could not be identified, and then drive to the victim's house. Once he arrived at the house, M.T. was supposed to tell the sister that if she did not pay Comisar's mother $50,000 within 10 days, the Genovese crime family would come to collect $75,000 later. The letter also instructed M.T. to mention "the twins." The victim has young twin daughters.

On Father's Day, June 20, 2004, M.T. and a friend drove to the sister's house in the San Fernando Valley to deliver Comisar's threat and to scare her and her husband into paying Comisar. When they reached the house, M.T. and his friend rang the door bell and told the victim's family that they were delivering a message from Comisar.

On or about June 25, 2004, Comisar sent the lawyer a second letter in which he once again demanded $50,000 and warned the woman that "This is not going to go away until I'm paid what you owe me. You know I'm very serious about getting my money so just pay me now!"

Comisar subsequently caused two letters to be sent to M.T. with further instructions about how to scare the convict's sister into paying Comisar. The first letter, which was sent on or about June 26, 2004, instructed M.T. to go to a florist and have the florist deliver a single black rose to the victim. The letter then instructed M.T. to go to a supermarket and buy two large fish that "look like ‘twins.'" The letter then directed M.T. to tie the fish together with a fishing line or wire, and lob them over the family's gate and near their front door.

Comisar caused another letter to be sent to M.T. on June 29, 2004. This letter instructed M.T. to call the attorney "and tell her she has 24 hours to pay or your [sic] going to turn her life upside down." The letter further instructed M.T. to make a specific threat of violence if her husband got on the phone.

Comisar is currently serving a cumulative sentence of 143 months in connection with his 2003 telemarketing fraud conviction and his sentences for violation of his conditions of supervised release and probation in three other matters.

Comisar is the author of America's Guide to Fraud Prevention, a handbook published under the pseudonym "Brett Champion" that landed Comisar appearances on several network television shows in 1990s.

The case against Comisar was investigated by the Los Angeles Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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Release No. 06-168

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