Watch CBS News

Temecula Art Gallery Owner Pleads Guilty In Stalking, Extortion Probe

LOS ANGELES ( — A Temecula art gallery owner who allegedly stalked, harassed and attempted to extort as much as $300,000 from art world professionals pleaded guilty Monday to two federal charges, prosecutors said.

Jason White, 43, of Temecula, was arrested by the FBI on Feb. 12 after engaging in a six-month stalking and extortion scheme that targeted art world professionals with whom he had had business relationships, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Levitt.

When those business relationships ended, White posted derogatory information about his former associates on websites he had created, and then used threatening emails to demand hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for taking the websites down, Levitt said.

White repeatedly made extortionate demands through harassing text messages and emails, and when his demands were not met, he threatened violence against the victim families, according to Levitt.

As part of the scheme, White targeted his former employer, an art publisher, as well as his supervisor at the art publisher's company by creating derogatory websites in the art publisher's name and then allegedly sending threatening text messages to the art publisher, the publisher's son, and his former supervisor, according to court documents.

In a text message to his former supervisor, White threatened to find her family and make her pay with "fear, anguish, and pain," Levitt said. On several occasions, White allegedly obtained pictures of her child and sent pictures of the child to the victim with comments such as "it will be very unfortunate if something was to happen to him."

White faces a maximum statutory sentence of 10 years in federal prison when he is sentenced on June 9.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.