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Man agrees to plead guilty in Tom Cruise extortion plot in LA

Man agrees to plead guilty in Tom Cruise extortion plot in LA

A man known for brokering deals involving compromising celebrity photos and videos has agreed to plead guilty in a plot to extort more than $1 million (euro730,000) from Tom Cruise for the actor's stolen wedding photos, according to court documents.
David Hans Schmidt, 47, has agreed to plea guilty to one count of sending communications for purposes of extortion. He faces up to two years in federal prison and a $250,000 (euro183,688) fine under a plea agreement filed Aug. 24. The court documents were unsealed Thursday.
It was not known when Schmidt, who is free on $100,000 (euro73,475) bond, might enter his plea in court. A phone message left for his attorney Nancy Kardon was not immediately returned Thursday.
Meanwhile, a plea agreement for Schmidt's co-defendant was filed under seal Aug. 24, according to a federal court docket in Los Angeles. Marc Lewis Gittleman, who authorities say helped recover photos from a computer hard drive, has been charged with conspiracy to commit extortion.
Gittleman, 33, faces up to five years in prison. His attorney Michael Nasatir declined to comment because the plea agreement is under seal.
Gittleman and Schmidt were arrested July 26 after federal authorities said Gittleman obtained photos of Cruise's wedding in Italy last year to Katie Holmes from the event's official photographer, court documents show.
Gittleman then made copies of photos on the drive and kept them for himself, authorities said. He contacted Schmidt after finding a Web site touting his abilities to broker celebrity photos.
Starting in May, Schmidt had repeated contact with Cruise representatives and threatened to release the photos if he did not receive between $1.2 million and $1.3 million (euro880,000 to euro960,000), officials said.
Authorities said Schmidt sent multiple e-mails to Cruise's camp, including one with 13 wedding photographs attached as proof he had them. Schmidt also said there were about 7,600 images and he hoped a "commendable and quiet arrangement could be reached" with Tom Cruise, court documents said.
Schmidt attended a Los Angeles meeting with the actor's representatives and an undercover FBI agent on July 24 in which he compared his actions to "legal extortion" and said he would "hunt down to hell and back" anyone who crossed him, court documents said.
Schmidt also has tried to auction off Paris Hilton's diaries, along with photos of her in various stages of undress and other personal items that had been locked away in a Los Angeles-area storage locker until a few months ago.
He has claimed to have brokered deals to sell a sex video of Dustin Diamond, who played Screech on "Saved by the Bell," and a video of skater Tonya Harding's wedding night, according to published reports. He also claimed to have obtained topless shots of rescued U.S. Army POW Pfc. Jessica Lynch.
A phone message left with Cruise's publicist was not immediately returned.