A Lowell man faces federal blackmail charges for allegedly demanding cash from a married Boston celebrity who was videotaped as he flirted with young women at a Boston bar.
Felix Paulino, 35, allegedly videotaped the celebrity while they were both in the nightspot called Venu in October as the man — identified in court papers only as John Doe — flirted with the women, trying to talk them into joining him at his private room at the bar, according to court records.
Doe was described as a married man who was the subject of “media reports in both newspapers and on television’’ about his “financial information’’ last fall, documents filed in US District Court in Boston said.
Paulino is accused of making a call to a person described as Doe’s agent on Oct. 22 and leaving a voice mail in which he said he had “incriminating evidence against one of your clients’’ and demanded that he get a return telephone call or the video would “go viral.’’
Paulino left his own telephone number on the voice mail, according to an affidavit filed by FBI Special Agent Daniel R. Romanzo, who described his law enforcement career as one that focused on investigations into street gangs, organized crime, terrorism, and extortion.
During a series of telephone conversations, e-mail exchanges, and text messages recorded or tracked by the FBI between Oct. 22 and Nov. 6, Paulino provided his e-mail address, his telephone number, the video in question, which showed both him and the celebrity, and a photograph of himself that matched up with his driver’s license photo, according to the agent’s affidavit.
During the secretly recorded conversations, Paulino allegedly demanded $20,000 in cash in return for handing over the video, about three minutes long.
To help persuade his target to go along with his plans, Paulino agreed to sign an affidavit promising not to sell the video to anyone else, according to the complaint.
“What I want on there is that you . . . are offering me some money for the tape,’’ Paulino allegedly told the agent.
Paulino allegedly wanted the agreement to be specific. “Put it all in there,’’ Paulino allegedly told the agent. “I’m trying to make it official with you. I’m trying to make it legit.’’
Paulino and the agent agreed to meet at a unidentified restaurant on Nov. 6, where he expected to be paid. The restaurant was under surveillance, and Paulino refused to come into the restaurant. Instead, he was seen getting into a car with two other men, and they were followed to Lowell.
Paulino allegedly sent a text message to the agent, who is identified in court papers only by the title of “Cooperator,’’ that he was “smarter then you think. Ta ta now.’’
The affidavit does not say whether Paulino released the video, as he threatened to do after the collapse of negotiations last fall. He is charged with attempting to extort money from Doe and using interstate communications to transmit a threat to “injure the reputation of John Doe.’’
Paulino appeared in US District Court Tuesday, where a magistrate judge agreed with prosecutors from US Attorney Carmen Ortiz’s office that he be held without bail pending a detention hearing, set for Friday afternoon. Paulino’s court-appointed attorney, Jane Peachy, declined to comment, saying she will address the matter in court on Friday.John R. Ellement
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