On Friday, two Virginia attorneys pled guilty to federal extortion charges, admitting their roles in a scheme to extort a multinational chemicals company. The attorneys demanded a $200 million payment disguised as an “consulting agreement” and threatened to deal “substantial financial and reputational harm” to the company if their demand was not met.
While the Department of Justice’s press release does not mention a specific corporation, reports identify the target company as Monsanto, which is facing dozens of lawsuits related to its Roundup weed killer.
Timothy Litzenburg, 38, of Charlottesville and Daniel Kincheloe, 41, of Glen Allen, each pled guilty Friday to one count of transmitting interstate communications with the intent to extort, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel C. Hoppe of the Western District of Virginia. The case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and Principal Assistant Chief Henry P. Van Dyck and Assistant Chief L. Rush Atkinson of the Department of Justice, Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the DOJ’s Criminal Division said, “This is a case where two attorneys blew well past the line of aggressive advocacy and crossed deep into the territory of illegal extortion, in a brazen attempt to enrich themselves by extracting millions of dollars from a multinational company.” Inspector in Charge Delany De Leon-Colon of the USPIS said, “The consequences of extortion are far reaching, affecting not only individuals, but also the economy in the United States and the world’s financial markets.” Both Benczkowski and De Leon-Colon emphasized members of the bar and people in positions of power and authority are not above the law, and will be held accountable for their actions.
Litzenburg and Kincheloe admitted that in approximately October 2019, Litzenburg approached a company 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.” Furthermore, they admitted Litzenburg proposed the idea of the consulting agreement to the company, which would effectively stop them from representing their clients as plaintiffs in ligation against the company. Then, Litzenburg and Kincheloe admitted that “Litzenburg, with Kincheloe’s knowledge and agreement, demanded that Company 1 pay Litzenburg, Kincheloe, and others, a total of $200 million in purported “consulting fees.””
After the initial demand for the $200 million, Litzenburg and Kincheloe also admitted that Litzenburg on several other occasions via email and in person meetings pressured and threatened the company and its attorneys that he would commence extensive and costly litigation and use media pressure to drive the company and parent company’s stock prices down and cause financial ruin in other ways.
Litzenburg and Kincheloe will be sentenced on Sept. 18, 2020, before U.S. District Court Judge Norman K. Moon. Litzenburg was represented by Jacqueline M. Reiner, PLLC.