LAWFUEL- The Law Newswire – A Los Angeles con man with a long string of fraud convictions was sentenced today to five years in federal prison for trying to extort more than $50,000 from an attorney by claiming to have information that could exonerate her brother, a convicted murderer who is serving a life prison sentence.
Steven Robert Comisar, 46, was sentenced this morning by United States District Court Judge George P. Schiavelli in Los Angeles. Explaining the five-year term, which was the maximum sentence in the case, Judge Schiavelli described Comisar as “someone with a significant criminal history who refuses, or is incapable, or is unwilling, to make his conduct comport with the law.”
Comisar pleaded guilty on December 7 to using the mail to commit extortion, admitting that he orchestrated the scheme to extort from his jail cell at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in downtown Los Angeles, where he was awaiting sentencing for defrauding an 84-year-old man out of $480,000. The sentence imposed today will be served consecutively to the 125-month sentence Comisar received for that fraud and another 18-month sentences he received for violating the conditions of his supervised release and probation in three prior cases. These previous sentences total nearly 14 years, and today’s sentence will be added to that term.
Comisar authored 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. As Judge Schiavelli noted at today’s hearing, with his most recent offense, Comisar’s schemes to obtain money from his victims went from fraudulent promises of get-rich schemes to threats of violence to extort large amounts of cash.
Comisar first contacted the victims of his extortion plan in the fall of 2003, when he told 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. 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 convict’s lawyer that he 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 later demanded as much as $100,000 from the sister. When the sister and the attorney 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 sister (who is a licensed attorney) and the convict’s attorney to the California State Bar.
When these first threats did not produce the desired result, Comisar sent the convict’s sister a letter titled “COLLECTION OF MONIES OWED ME.” In this June 2004 letter, Comisar told the sister 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 to the sister’s house in the San Fernando Valley to deliver a threat. Comisar sent the step-son a letter with detailed instructions on how to scare the sister into paying. The letter instructed the step-son 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. Comisar instructed the step-son to tell the sister that if she did not pay $50,000 within 10 days, the Genovese crime family would come to collect $75,000 later. The letter also instructed the step-son to mention “the twins,” presumably a reference to the sister’s young twin daughters.
On Father’s Day, June 20, 2004, the step-son 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, the step-son and his friend rang the door bell and told the victim’s family that they were delivering a message from Comisar.
Five days later, Comisar sent the convict’s lawyer a letter again demanding $50,000 and warning the sister 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 the step-son with further instructions about how to scare the convict’s sister into paying Comisar. The first letter instructed the step-son to go to a florist and have the florist deliver a single black rose to the victim. The letter then instructed the step-son to go to a supermarket and buy two large fish that “look like ‘twins,’” tie the fish together with a fishing line or wire, and lob them over the family’s gate and near their front door.
In another letter, Comisar instructed the step-son to call the sister “and tell her she has 24 hours to pay or your [sic] going to turn her life upside down.” The letter further specified the threat of violence – including bodily mutilation – that the step-son was to make against the sister’s husband if he got on the phone.
The case against Comisar was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney Ranee A. Katzenstein
Release No. 07-066