New York man acquitted in extortion scheme

STAR TRIBUNE (Mpls.-St. Paul) Newspaper of the Twin Cities

Date: 02/18/94

Kevin Duchschere; Staff Writer

A New York man who claimed entrapment was acquitted Thursday by a federal jury in Minneapolis of charges that he plotted to extort money and property from several East Coast people. After deliberating for a day, the jury found Kambiz Youssefi, 27, of Great Neck, N.Y., not guilty of one count each of extortion and mail fraud and six counts of wire fraud.

"We established that the crime was created by the government and carried out by the government," said Youssefi's attorney, Earl Gray. Youssefi, an Iranian Jew who emigrated to the United States seeking political refuge in 1981, had never been arrested before this incident, Gray said. The allegations have disgraced him and his family in their tight-knit community, he said.

Youssefi "was very happy with the verdict. His mother has been crying for six months," Gray said. According to the indictment, Youssefi, the manager of a Manhattan wholesale clothing distributor, hired an undercover FBI agent posing as a hit man last June in Minneapolis to pressure six people to sign over their properties to him. Youssefi also requested the kidnapping of two children of one of his business rivals as part of the plot, the indictment states. He allegedly agreed to pay the man $20,000 per victim.

He was arrested Oct. 10 by federal agents at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, where he allegedly had gone to finalize the extortion scheme. He had been free on $75,000 bail in New York before the trial, which began last week. Gray argued in court that the plot was concocted by a Greek drug dealer who is staving off deportation by serving as a government informant. He was the one who talked Youssefi into it and persuaded him to fly to Minnesota to hire a hit man, Gray said. Youseffi "has a naive, trusting, dependent personality, someone who can be led down the primrose path to believe anything," Gray said. Larry Mefford, an FBI supervisory special agent, declined to comment, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Saffold did not return a phone call.

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