Virginia Attorney Arrested for Engaging in Scheme to Extort a Public Company
A licensed Virginia attorney was arrested today on federal extortion and interstate threat charges for allegedly trying to extort a public company by threatening to inflict substantial financial and reputational harm on the company if his demands for a $200 million payment disguised as a purported “consulting agreement” were not met, announced Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Inspector in Charge Delany De Leon-Colón of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Criminal Investigations Group.
Timothy Litzenburg, 37, of Charlottesville, Virginia, was charged in a criminal complaint unsealed today with transmitting interstate communications with intent to extort, attempted extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion and transmit interstate communications with intent to extort.
Litzenburg was arrested this morning and appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel C. Hoppe of the Western District of Virginia. Litzenburg was released on bail.
According to the criminal complaint, in approximately October 2019, Litzenburg approached a company (Company 1) and threatened to make public statements alleging that Company 1 had significant civil liability for manufacturing a purportedly harmful chemical used in a common household product used to kill weeds. Litzenburg allegedly also said that after making these statements, he would use media and other means to find plaintiffs to sue Company 1. Litzenburg allegedly threatened that he would only refrain from any such public actions if Company 1 (and its parent company) paid Litzenburg and his associates $200 million in “consulting fees.” In exchange for the $200 million, Litzenburg allegedly indicated that he would not tell any existing or future clients about Company 1 or its purported role in manufacturing the product. Litzenburg also allegedly made clear that the $200 million would not be a settlement for any clients, but rather would be a payment for Litzenburg and his associates.
Litzenburg allegedly communicated his extortionate demands by telephone and email and during an in-person meeting. During the in-person meeting, Litzenburg allegedly threatened that he and his law associates would be Company 1’s “biggest problem” unless they received the $200 million payment, and that the public disclosure of the purportedly damaging information about Company 1 would cause a “40 percent stock loss,” and “public relations nightmare” for Company 1’s publicly traded parent company.
During other communications with Company 1, Litzenburg allegedly told Company 1 that if he received the $200 million in “consulting fees,” he was willing to “take a dive” during a civil deposition of a Company 1 toxicologist to prevent any of his purported current clients or prospective future plaintiffs from suing Company 1.
A criminal complaint is merely an allegation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The USPIS is investigating the case. Assistant Chief L. Rush Atkinson and Principal Assistant Chief Henry P. Van Dyck of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.