Here we make a list of celebrities who got blackmailed.
1. Bill Cosby
The disgraced comedian was blackmailed by Autumn Jackson in 1997. Autumn tried to extort $40 million from Cosby by threatening to go to the press with her claim that she was his illegitimate child. When his lawyer warned her, she sent a copy of the $25,000 contract she had negotiated with The Globe to sell her story, which would tarnish his clean cut reputation.
Cosby’s lawyers contacted FBI, who covertly invited Jackson to New York under the guise of settlement agreement with the purpose of sting operation devised to gain proof of extortion on her part. Jackson was subsequently arrested on January 20, 1997. She was found guilty of threatening to injure another person’s reputation with the intent to extort money and was sentenced to 26 months in federal prison.
2. Kelly Preston & John Travolta
On January 2, 2009, Jett Travolta, 16, who had a history of seizures, and was suffering from Kawasaki disease since the age of two, died from a seizure, while the family was on vacation in Bahamas. Three people, Obie Wilchcombe, a member of the Bahamian Parliament and former Bahamian Minister of Tourism and a close friend of the Travoltas, Tarino Lightbourne, the EMT who drove Jett along with John to the hospital, and, Pleasant Bridgewater, a Bahamian senator, tried to extort $25 million from the couple by lying about the circumstances of their son’s death.
Obie Wilchcombe (left), Pleasant Bridgewater (middle), Tarino Lightbourne (right)
The blackmailer threatened to release a document which John allegedly signed that refused emergency medical services, which led to their son’s demise. The police said that no such document was ever signed. The senator, Pleasant Bridgewater, resigned from her office as a result of the extortion allegation. The first trial ended in a mistrial. After a second jury had been selected, the couple decided to drop the charges after which all the charges against the defendants were dismissed.
3. Jeff Bezos
The founder of tech company, Amazon, and the owner of The Washington Post, wrote a Medium blogpost on February 8, 2019, that accused the owner of National Enquirer, David Pecker, of extortion and blackmail by threatening to release his intimate pictures. Bezos alleged that it was done to stop Washington Post from investigating into the hush money paid by National Enquirer to model Karen McDougal, to not publish her story of having affair with Pecker’s friend and 2016 presidential candidate, Donald Trump.
4. Roseanne Barr
Roseanne Barr who had given her daughter, who she had when she was 17, up for adoption, was blackmailed by a private detective working for the National Enquirer to pay him $500,000 or else he would report the adoption story to the tabloid. The comedian decided to pay the money, but was scammed as the the Enquirer ended up running the story about her daughter Brandi’s existence who just turned 18 along with the details of the mother-daughter reunion.
5. Cindy Crawford
The supermodel and her husband were blackmailed by Edis Kayalar, a 26-year old German model, with a picture of their daughter gagged and bound to a chair. He tried to extort $100,000 in 2009, threatening them that the tabloids would pay a lot for the picture. The photo was taken by Cindy’s nanny, when her daughter was seven, as part of cops and robbers game.
Edis Kayalar who was a friend of the nanny, took hold of the picture and began blackmailing the parents until his demands are met. The couple reported the blackmailing after which he was arrested. Kayalar was found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison.
6. David Letterman
The talk show host was blackmailed by a mysterious man who threatened to reveal his string of affairs with several of his female employees in a film screenplay and book the blackmailer was writing, if Letterman did not pay him $2 million. The blackmailer turned out to be, Joe Halderman, a producer of television series 48 Hours, who was caught after a string operation orchestrated by Manhattan District Attorney in which Letterman handed over a fake cheque to the extortionist.
Halderman was arrested on October 1, 2009, when he tried to deposit the check. He pleaded guilty in March 2010 and was sentenced to six months in prison. Halderman came to know of the affairs from Letterman’s longtime personal assistant Stephanie Birkitt, who had shared a residence with Halderman. He copied her personal diary and used it as the blackmail material. Letterman devoted a segment of his show on October 5, 2009, to a public apology to his wife and staff.
7. Elvis Presley
The King of Rock was blackmailed by Laurenz Johannes Griessel-Landau, a South African medical doctor and fake skin specialist, in 1959 when he was stationed in Germany as part of his military service. The doctor extorted money from Elvis by threatening to expose him as homosexual, and claiming to have pictures of him in compromising situations with other military officers.
Even though no such pictures existed, Elvis paid the blackmailer after a agreement that the blackmailer would leave Germany for England in January 1960. The doctor never contacted him again. The extortion attempt was revealed after Presley’s death in 1980, in the FBI files kept on him.
8. Cameron Diaz
Cameron Diaz was approached by photographer, John Rutter, in 2003 around the time of release of her movie, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, with the offer of selling back the topless photos of her which he clicked back in 1992 for $3.5 million. The actress saw this as an attempt to blackmail and sued him. He said that he was not trying to blackmail her but offering her first right of refusal, before attempting to sell those pictures to prospective buyers.
A 30-minute video of the photo shoot, entitled “She’s No Angel”, was released on a Russian website on July 2004, Rutter denied any involvement in the release. On September 16, 2005, Rutter was sentenced to more than three years in prison for attempted grand theft, forgery, and perjury at Los Angeles Superior Court.
9. Tom Cruise
David Hans Schmidt
David Hans Schmidt, a man who specialized in hawking celebrity sex tapes tried to blackmail Tom Cruise, by threatening to release stolen photos of Cruise’s wedding to Katie Holmes which took place in Italy in 2006, unless he was paid $1.2 million to $1.3 million. David was caught after which he agreed to plead guilty to attempted extortion in early 2007, and was under house arrest in his home in Phoenix, Arizona, awaiting a trial. The blackmailer was found dead in his home on September 28, 2007. His death was later ruled as suicide by hanging.
10. Dascha Polanco
The ‘Orange Is the New Black star was targeted by her 17-year-old neighbor Michelle Cardona, who was allegedly having an affair with Dasha’s then-fiancé. Polanco was accused of scratching, punching and pulling the hair of Cardona in 2015, after Cardona showed up at Polanco’s door, allegedly to meet Polanco’s fiancé, not realizing Polanco was home.
Polanco then was subjected to a horrifying eight months, that included a legal battle and a struggle with depression. The actress alleges there were six requests for $5,000 to $6,000 by Cardona to drop charges, until a friend of Polanco’s taped Cardona on the phone. The charges against Polanco were later dismissed under the condition that the actress would stay out of trouble for six months.
11. Rob Lowe
The actor wrote a column on Huffington Post on April 7, 2008, in which he accused his former nanny, Jessica Gibson, of engaging in a scheme to hurt him and his wife by spreading malicious lies, unless he paid her 1.5 million dollars, as per her demands. Lowe preemptively sued Gibson in April 2008, alleging her of trying to blackmail him. Gibson filed a sexual harassment suit against Lowe and his wife, after some days. The legal battle ended in May 2009, and the matter was resolved outside the court.
12. Bruce Willis
The ‘Die Hard’ star sued his childhood friend Bruce DiMattia in 2006, who he had hired to maintain his personal items and memorabilia, of threatening to release Willis’ private photos and disclose personal information about the actor unless Willis bought him a car and paid him $100,000. The actor and his friend reached a settlement and the case was resolved amicably.
13. Michael Jordan
The basketball legend filed a lawsuit in 2002 against his former lover, Karla Knafel, of attempting to extort $5 million from him in exchange for keeping quiet about their relationship they had more than 10 years ago. The lawsuit conceded Jordan had a relationship with her and he has already paid her $250,000 to keep their relationship a secret. The lawsuit further claims that she is trying to extort an additional $5 million as a purported second agreement through her attorneys. On July 21, 2006, the courts determined that Jordan is not obligated to pay her.
14. Elle Macpherson
Two men William Ryan Holt and Michael Mischler broke into the supermodel’s Los Angeles home, between 11 and 22 July 1997, while she was away in Chicago for business, and stole jewelry worth $100,000 and several photographs. They tried to extort $60,000 from Elle by threatening to post stolen explicit photographs of her on the Internet. Both were arrested on 4 August 1997. Mischler was sentenced to six-year and eight-month in prison and Holt was sentenced to a year in prison.