When dealing with the legal definitions of extortion, usually the crime is defined as the wrongful obtainment of property from a person through the use of threats. The threats don’t need to have anything to do with physical harm; if the threat would cause emotional harm or harm to a person’s reputation, it counts under the definition of extortion.
When this crime is committed in connection with the collection or creation of a loan, federal courts can punish this crime using three separate statutes:
- Making Extortionate Extensions of Credit
- Financing Extortionate Extensions of Credit
- Collection of Extensions of Credit by Extortionate Means
All of these crimes are equally serious. Each one has a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison. Oftentimes, these charges will also be brought along with even more serious allegations, often involving assault or racketeering. Because of how grave the consequences for conviction are, it’s important for individuals charged with extortion to get in contact with a federal criminal attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney should have previous experience with successfully defending these charges.
One of the statutes, 18 U.S.C 892, is about people who make or conspire to make an extension of their credit by using extortion. People found guilty of this crime will face a fine and a maximum of 20 years in federal prison. To make an extension of credit, an agreement or loan would need to be created and the debt payment deferred. For this process to be extortionate, the agreement must be made with an understanding that failing to repay the loan could result in harm.
To prove that the credit extension was a result of extortion, the government has to establish that the victim had a belief that failure to repay the loan would result in harm. This belief in potential harm must be the result of an implied or express threat made by the creditor. Implied threats are difficult to prove, so the statute lists these factors as ways of establishing an extortionate loan:
- The debt’s repayment would not be enforceable by a civil judicial process
- The credit extension was made at interest rates larger than 45 percent annually
- The debtor had a reasonable belief that non-repayment of the debt would result in harm based on the previous loan collections done by the creditor
The next statute, 18 U.S.C. 893, allows anyone involved in the financing of extortionate credit extensions to be punished by up to 20 years in federal prison. Individuals might receive this charge whether or not the money was meant to be an investment, gift, or loan.
The last statute is 18 U.S.C. 894. This statute establishes that any person who engages in the knowing use of extortionate ways, or conspiracy to use extortionate ways to collect a credit extension, can face up to twenty years in prison. Prosecutors have permission to introduce evidence regarding other loan collections that the creditor has made, provided these collections happened to the debtor’s knowledge.
When there is no available direct evidence of the knowledge of the debtor, the court must use its own discretion to introduce evidence regarding the reputation of the defendant. If the defendant had a community reputation for criminal acts or violence, the debtor would have a reasonable means of considering an implicit threat.
Regardless of whether you’ve been accused of one or more of these statutes, you need to contact an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible. The law offices of Robert Tsigler have experience negotiating and defending on both the state and federal level.