A former Republican candidate for U.S. Senate has been arrested by police in Colorado and charged with felony criminal extortion as well as misdemeanor ethnic intimidation harassment and theft, the Aspen Daily News reports.
Mark Aspiri, who unsuccessfully ran a campaign for the Republican nomination to oppose then-Sen. Mark Udall in 2014, allegedly targeted a random victim in a plot to harass, threaten and extort $1,200 from a Latino man.
"Aspiri allegedly told the victim the money was owed to a third party — but could provide little to no information in the way of why the money was owed or to whom, exactly," reports the Aspen Daily News. "The victim terminated the call and, after receiving several additional calls from Aspiri, blocked the phone number."
A Glenwood Springs Police Department press release says Aspiri began calling from different numbers, and his "associates" did as well.
"After receiving numerous threatening calls, the victim became very scared. Mr. Aspiri told him that he knew the victim, 'was here illegally.' He made several other similar statements threatening to have the victim deported. He demanded payment that day as the next day would be too late," the release stated. "The victim told Mr. Aspiri that he was afraid of him and asked him to stop calling and making the threats. Friends of the victim told the victim that Mr. Aspiri is very powerful and influential, and he should just pay him."
Aspiri allegedly told the victim to Google him to find out who he was.
The victim's alleged immigration status was reportedly used against him in the extortion plot.
"On another occasion, Mr. Aspiri again demanded payment that day. He said, 'tonight is your opportunity and believe me, you don't want any problems with me.' He again referenced the victim being in the United States unlawfully which was a theme woven throughout the interactions," the press release reads.
The victim ended up paying Aspiri $500.
"It was reported that Mr. Aspiri told an attorney retained by the victim's family that he has, 'done this often and gotten thousands of dollars from people,'" according to the press release.
After his arrest, Aspiri was released from jail, pending a hearing in Garfield County District Court.