It began with weekly payments of $20, reports CBS News Correspondent Jeffrey Kofman. Soon the payments increased to $100 and more, adding up to thousands. These were payments to a high school bully from a scared classmate.
Mechanicville Police Chief Peter Clements says the victim paid off the bully with money he received as birthday and Christmas gifts.
On Monday, police arrested 16-year-old Michael Stewart after he allegedly accepted $300 from his 17-year-old victim. Last week, administrators at Mechanicville High School learned of the alleged extortion and helped the victim contact police. Principal Michael McCarthy says he did not know how long the situation had been going on.
It now appears, Kofman reports, it was going on for three years, beginning when both students were in middle school.
"The victim was originally 14 years old and at that time, this Stewart kid was a little bit younger, but may have been bigger in stature," explains the police chief. "And threats causedÂ…the victim to say, 'I better do this rather than report it'."
Adults know nothing about it, but other students were well aware of what was going on. They, too, were frightened.
"He told a few people that he had a certain hit list, and me and my friends were on it, even my little brother, who is only 5 years old," says classmate Marc Alpy. "I don't understand that."
Stories of schoolyard bullies extorting money are as old as the one-room schoolhouse. But they usually demand 50 cents or a dollar, not thousands. That's why the alleged bully in this case is being charged as an adult, facing third degree robbery and larceny charges.
If convicted, he could go to jail for up to seven years.