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    United States Attorney's Office
    Central District of California

    Thom Mrozek
    Public Affairs Officer

    (213) 894-6947
    thom.mrozek@usdoj.gov



    Return to the 2007 Press Release Index
    Release No. 07-096

    July 27, 2007

    TWO MEN ARRESTED IN CONNECTION WITH SCHEME TO EXTORT ACTOR TOM CRUISE FOR MORE THAN $1 MILLION FOR PHOTOS

    Two men were arrested by FBI Agents this week for their roles in a scheme to extort actor Tom Cruise for $1.3 million in exchange for copies of Mr. Cruise’s wedding photos which had been stolen.

    Schmidt make his initial court appearance on Wednesday, and he was later released on a $100,000 bond. Gittleman is scheduled to make his initial appearance in United States District Court in Los Angeles this afternoon.

    Mr. Cruise was married overseas in November 2006 and had retained a photography studio for the event. A contract between the studio and Mr. Cruise states that the studio is the “authorized photographer” for the event and contains a stipulation stating that that all photographs are solely and exclusively owned by Mr. Cruise. Further, the contract stated that the photographs could not be reprinted, shown, sold, displayed or copied without the consent of Mr. Cruise. The studio also contractually agreed that the photographs would remain confidential. There has been no known release of Mr. Cruise’s wedding photographs taken by the studio that has not been authorized by Mr. Cruise.

    In May 2007, Schmidt contacted Mr. Cruise’s representatives and claimed to have approximately 4,000 photographs of Mr. Cruise and other celebrity guests who attended the wedding, according to court documents filed this week. Schmidt sent e-mails with Mr. Cruise’s wedding photos attached as proof that he had the photographs in his possession. In June, a private investigator conducted an undercover operation in West Hollywood with Schmidt, who brought multiple wedding photos. Schmidt said he had no information about how the images were obtained but claimed that he was acting on behalf of a “Mr. X.” Schmidt claimed he could sell the images in foreign countries where U.S. copyright laws are not enforced. According to the complaint, Schmidt solicited $1.3 million in exchange for the return of the wedding photos to Mr. Cruise, and during negotiations he threatened to post the photos on the Internet or sell the photos on the black market if he was not paid the sum requested. Moreover, Schmidt sent e-mails stating he was not concerned with the unlawful nature of his actions.

    Once the extortionate request was referred to federal authorities, the FBI in Los Angeles initiated an investigation to obtain additional evidence and to identify the source of the stolen photographs and Schmidt’s co-conspirator.

    On July 24, Schmidt agreed to meet a representative of Mr. Cruise and an undercover FBI Agent. After the meeting, Schmidt was taken into custody and charged with sending e-mails in connection with the extortion scheme.

    Further investigation revealed the identity of “Mr. X” as Marc Gittleman. Gittleman conducts a computer data recovery business from his home in West Hollywood. According to the complaint filed this afternoon, Gittleman’s services had been retained by Mr. Cruise’s authorized photographer when his hard drive containing the wedding photos had failed. According to the complaint, Gittleman successfully recovered the data from the failed drive and made multiple personal copies of the wedding pictures before returning the drive to the photography studio. Gittleman then allegedly contacted Schmidt after conducting research on the Internet where he learned of Schmidt’s stated ability to negotiate the sale of celebrity photographs.

    On July 26, FBI Agents arrested Gittleman at his residence. Gittleman is charged with conspiracy to commit extortion.

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    Release No. 07-096
    Return to the 2007 Press Release Index