Thursday, July 26, 2007

Cruise targeted in $1 million extortion attempt

Arizona man allegedly threatened to publish photos from Tom and Katie's wedding.

A picture worth a million words
By Andrew Blankstein
Times Staff Writer

July 26, 2007

The FBI today announced the arrest of an Arizona man for allegedly seeking $1 million from Tom Cruise in exchange for not publishing photos of the actor's wedding with actress Katie Holmes.

David Hans Schmidt is accused of seeking the money from Cruise's representatives last month, and authorities allege the photos in question were stolen, according to several sources who spoke on the condition that they not be named because the case file was sealed.

Schmidt was arrested Tuesday on extortion charges and is being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown Los Angeles, the sources said.

"We arrested him Tuesday, and the federal complaint against is under seal," FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.

Tom Cruise Extortion Plot

FBI arrests "Sultan of Sleaze" in wedding picture scheme

JULY 26--The Arizona man who has been dubbed the "Sultan of Sleaze" for his role in the distribution of celebrity sex tapes was arrested this week for his alleged role in an extortion plot targeting Tom Cruise, The Smoking Gun has learned.

David Hans Schmidt, 47, was nabbed Tuesday by FBI agents and is currently being held at the federal detention center in L.A.. He allegedly tried to sell Cruise a large cache of private photos from the actor's November 2006 wedding to Katie Holmes. Schmidt sought more than $1 million for the wedding photos, which were stolen from the actor, said Bert Fields, a Cruise lawyer.

Fields told TSG that Schmidt approached Cruise's representatives earlier this year about the purloined photos and that the actor's camp immediately called the FBI and the United States Attorney's Office. From that point, Fields said, the matter was handled by federal investigators (presumably with some working in an undercover capacity).

Schmidt was arraigned yesterday on the felony charge and bond was set at $100,000. In an e-mail, Thom Mrozek, a U.S. Attorney's spokesman, said that Schmidt was arrested pursuant to a criminal complaint that remains sealed, "so I cannot comment about the case."

Schmidt, who has been involved in personal bankruptcy actions for most of the past two years, often contacts celebrities like Paris Hilton and Colin Farrell in advance of trying to publicly peddle private photos or videos to see if they want to purchase back their explicit material. Yesterday, when TSG first learned of Schmidt's arrest, a reporter called his L.A. assistant, who claimed that Schmidt was in meetings all day. In fact, he was in federal custody. Schmidt is pictured in the above mug shot from a June 2007 Arizona arrest.

In recent conversations with TSG, Schmidt claimed to be working on the biggest deal of his career and, last week, said he was rushing to L.A. on business. News stories this week identified Schmidt as the "agent" for Kimberly Bell, the ex-girlfriend of baseball star Barry Bonds. Bell, who is appearing nude in November's Playboy, will also be the subject of an article describing her "personal and sexual relationship" with the athlete, Schmidt told The New York Times.

Over the past decade, Schmidt's celebrity porn brokerage has involved X-rated images of A-list stars like Jamie Foxx, as well as lesser lights like Gennifer Flowers, Tonya Harding, Fred Durst, Amber Frey, and the actor who played "Screech" on the TV show "Saved by the Bell." He also once sought to sell topless photos of Jessica Lynch, the U.S. soldier who was briefly held as a P.O.W. in Iraq.