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Michigan Extortion Charges

Stripper and Family Accused of Blackmail

As Oscar Wilde claimed, “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.” And that was certainly the case here, where a recent series of events sounded suspiciously like a portion of the story line in the first episode of Fox Network’s Backstrom “Dragon Slayer”, in which a stripper and her family pull a scam on someone to get money.

But the difference here is that the character in the TV show gets murdered, while Paul Vagnozzi, the Michigan based retired software mogul who is the victim of an extortion scam at the hands of a stripper and her family, has survived to tell the tale.

According to the indictment, Jessica Tackett, an exotic dancer by trade, and her mother and father, Terry and Kim Tackett, are responsible for attempting to blackmail Vagnozzi. They allegedly threatened to reveal his one-time sexual encounter with Jessica and her teenaged cousin, unless he paid up.

And he did. Over and over, according to the federal prosecutor, who claims that over 3 million dollars have been collected by the Tackett family over the years. Apparently the first threat was made back in 2008. At that time Vagnozzi paid the first $30,000 installment to purchase the Tackett’s silence.

Also, the prosecutor is alleging that Terry Tackett threatened Vagnozzi with violence, claiming that he would have his friends in the mafia and the Jokers Motorcycle Club beat him up if he refused to pay.

Terry Tackett is facing the majority of the charges, including tax evasion, money laundering, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and a number of banking crimes. Jessica Tackett and her mother both face a federal charge of conspiracy to obstruct justice, which is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Apparently the investigation began in January 2011 when IRS agents noticed that Vagnozzi was making regular and substantial cash withdrawals from a number of banks. Apparently most of the withdrawals were just below $10,000, which is the point at which a bank is required to report the transaction to the federal government.

But things got even more complicated from there – Jessica and her mother apparently lied to investigators and claimed that Vagnozzi had raped her, and Terry Tackett also lied to investigators about the ownership of several vehicles that were seized during a raid, including a 2010 Dodge Challenger, a 2010 Dodge Ram pickup, a number of Jet Skis, and several vintage cars.

All three Tacketts were arrested and have since pled not guilty to the charges they are facing. It remains to be seen how this case pans out in court.

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