What to do about blackmail?

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What to do about blackmail?

My mothers’ ex boyfriend is holding a family photo album hostage and threatening to burn it if he does not receive $2500 by Tuesday for money he claims she owes him from the time she was living in his house. This album has been in the family for many year and holds great sentimental value and would pass to me one day and my children’s children. Is there any legal action I could take to prevent it from being destroyed or in the event of it’s destruction a legal punishment that could be inflicted upon him?

Asked on June 16, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Ohio

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

First, try calling the police: what he is doing is illegal (one may NOT threaten to destroy another's property in order to secure payment of an alleged debt)--they should intervene in this matter.

If the police for some reason refuse to help (mistakenly thinking of this as a "civil" matter, rather than a crime in the making), then IMMEDIATELY have an attorney file for emergent (think "emergeny" or "ugent") relief; the lawyer would seek a court order directing the ex-boyfriend to not do this. One option is for the order to direct that the album be put into safe keeping, such as with your attorney, until such time as any claims to ownership are resolved.

If the ex-boyfriend does destroy the album, you can press charges for one or more of theft or vandalism as well as sue him for the monetary value of the album. However, there is no recovery or compensation available for sentimental value, which is why you want to stop this from happening, if possible.


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