LOS ANGELES – A Las Vegas man has been sentenced to nine years in federal prison for leading an extortion scheme in which several California residents were threatened with physical injury or death if they did not pay him $500,000.
Brian S. Martin, 39, received the nine-year prison term yesterday afternoon after pleading guilty last year to a 24-count indictment charging him with conspiracy, transmitting threatening interstate communications, receiving the proceeds of extortion, collecting extensions of credit by extortion, attempting to interfere with commerce by threats, and traveling interstate in aid of racketeering enterprises.
Following a four-hour hearing Monday afternoon, Martin was sentenced by United States District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall. At the hearing, several of Martin’s victims spoke about the fear that Martin had instilled in them and the ways in which their lives and their families’ lives had been permanently altered by his criminal conduct. “The last four years have been the most difficult in my life,” one victim stated. Another victim expressed “the hope that the fear will someday be gone. . . . My life has been totally altered forever.”
One of Martin’s co-defendants, Travis Zipper, 29, also of Las Vegas, was sentenced late last year to three years in federal prison after he was found guilty at trial of participating in the extortion scheme.
The evidence presented at Martin’s sentencing hearing yesterday, as well as at Zipper’s trial last year, showed that, after Martin lost money in a gold mining investment in Africa, he and Zipper tried to locate individuals associated with the person with whom Martin had invested money. After locating several individuals who had nothing to do with the gold mining investment, Martin and Zipper suggested to them that they had to pay Martin $500,000, or else Martin’s associates would kill or injure them, their friends, or their family members. Through this extortion scheme, Martin and Zipper ultimately succeeded in collecting approximately $54,500 from victims and their family members.
To intimidate his victims, Martin sent numerous threatening text messages from his personal computer, using different phone numbers to make it appear that the messages were coming from his criminal associates and not from him. The threats included a message that read: “we will say hello to [your relative] for you in person this time tough guy. You will regret this. I hope you are ready.”
Martin used a variety of methods to intimidate and threaten his victims. For example, he arranged for a private investigator to visit one victim’s house, take pictures, and pretend to sell life insurance to a family member of the victim. In another case, Martin arranged for one of his associates to make an unannounced visit to the victim’s home and state that the individual in Africa with whom Martin had invested money was now “in a body bag.” At the sentencing hearing yesterday, the government played a recording of a conversation in which Martin, using coded language, appeared to commission the murder of the individual in Africa.
This case is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney Beong-Soo Kim
Acting Chief, Major Frauds Section