$3 Million Dollar Extortion Plot Against NBA Player is Foiled by NYPD


By Marc J. Spears and Felisa Cardona, Denver Post (Colorado)

Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony was the target of a $3 million dollar extortion plot foiled Tuesday by New York City police detectives, according to a police source.

Three men were arrested on suspicion of attempted extortion of the basketball star in an undercover sting operation.

The extortion attempt stemmed from a Sept. 13 physical altercation in Manhattan. The incident reportedly occurred at a New York nightclub with a man known as "Sugar Ray." Sugar Ray allegedly spat a drink in the face of Anthony's girlfriend, La La Vasquez, an MTV host.

The altercation had been videotaped, and the men tried to get Anthony to pay them $3 million in exchange for the tape, police said. Anthony's agent, Calvin Andrews, told The Denver Post the extortion attempt began in September.

"I just found out today that they were arrested," Anthony said. "I'm glad the police handled it the best that they could. I'm just glad to be back in good spirits. I'm glad to be back to myself."

A meeting was set for 10 a.m. Tuesday in Manhattan, where an undercover NYPD detective posed as Anthony's representative, a police spokesman said. A check was handed over for the tape, and the men were arrested on suspicion of grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property.

Rodrigo Sanchez, 36, of South Orange, N.J.; and Jason Pabon, 26, and Joubert Santos, 29, both of the Bronx, were arrested during the sting, an NYPD spokesman said. Anthony said he didn't know the men.

"This incident was a private matter between two individuals (Anthony and Sugar Ray), and it has been completely resolved," Andrews said in a statement. "When these individuals, who had absolutely nothing to do with that incident, demanded money, Carmelo chose not to give in to these demands, and we turned the matter over to the authorities. This is a desperate attempt by ill-intentioned people trying to cash in on a random brush of fame."

Andrews declined to give details about how Anthony originally was approached by Sanchez, Pabon and Santos. But Andrews said Anthony had very little to do with ending the extortion attempt. Anthony said he actually forgot about it until Tuesday. "I just found out today that they were arrested," Anthony said. "I'm glad the police handled it the best that they could. I'm just glad to be back in good spirits. I'm glad to be back to myself."

A meeting was set for 10 a.m. Tuesday in Manhattan, where an undercover NYPD detective posed as Anthony's representative, a police spokesman said. A check was handed over for the tape, and the men were arrested on suspicion of grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property.

Rodrigo Sanchez, 36, of South Orange, N.J.; and Jason Pabon, 26, and Joubert Santos, 29, both of the Bronx, were arrested during the sting, an NYPD spokesman said. Anthony said he didn't know the men.

"This incident was a private matter between two individuals (Anthony and Sugar Ray), and it has been completely resolved," Andrews said in a statement. "When these individuals, who had absolutely nothing to do with that incident, demanded money, Carmelo chose not to give in to these demands, and we turned the matter over to the authorities. This is a desperate attempt by ill-intentioned people trying to cash in on a random brush of fame."

Andrews declined to give details about how Anthony originally was approached by Sanchez, Pabon and Santos. But Andrews said Anthony had very little to do with ending the extortion attempt. Anthony said he actually forgot about it until Tuesday.

"We've been working on this for more than two months," Andrews told The Denver Post. "Carmelo really hasn't had anything to do with this. He received occasional briefing. It wasn't until (Tuesday) that he knew it was to the point of arrest. We've tried to allow him to concentrate on basketball."

Anthony struggled during the Nuggets' 90-88 win Tuesday over the New Jersey Nets at the Pepsi Center. He made only 4-of-15 shots and finished with nine points, two rebounds and three assists. Anthony acknowledged that the botched extortion attempt was on his mind.

"It's something that anyone would think about," Anthony said when asked whether he was distracted. "It's a lot to handle. God works in mysterious ways. Things happen for a reason."

Said Nuggets coach Jeff Bzdelik: "I was just notified. I had no clue. I was not aware of it. I'm not sure many people in the organization were."

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