Riverside County Art Dealer Arrested in Federal Cyberstalking Case
|U.S. Attorney’s Office February 12, 2014|
LOS ANGELES—The owner of a Temecula art gallery who allegedly stalked, harassed, and attempted to extort several art world professionals was arrested today on federal cyberstalking charges.
Jason White, 43, of Temecula, was arrested this morning without incident by special agents with the FBI.
White’s arrest comes after federal prosecutors yesterday filed a criminal complaint that charges White with stalking, a crime that carries a potential penalty of five years in federal prison. White is expected to make his initial appearance this afternoon in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles.
According to the complaint, White engaged in a stalking and extortion scheme that targeted several art world professionals with whom he had had business relationships. When those business relationships ended, White posted derogatory information about his former associates on websites he had created and then used threatening e-mails to demand hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for taking the websites down. According to the complaint, White repeatedly made extortionate demands through harassing text messages and e-mails, and when his demands were not met, he threatened violence.
In one part of the scheme, White targeted his former employer, an art publisher, as well as his supervisor at the art publisher’s company. After creating derogatory websites in the art publisher’s name, White allegedly sent threatening text messages to the art publisher, the publisher’s son, and his former supervisor. According to the complaint, in a text message to his former supervisor, he threatened to find her family and make her pay with “fear, anguish, and pain.” On several occasions, according to the complaint, White 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.” During this time, according to the complaint, White continued to demand payment in exchange for taking down the websites he had created and made it known to these victims that their business reputation would be ruined and that his websites would forever show up anytime anyone searched for their name on the Internet.
Late last month, White allegedly went to the Facebook page of a well-known artist represented by the art publisher and posted a picture of himself, along with a statement that he was focusing on the artist’s wife and child. White allegedly wrote that he would be waiting in the bushes to “kneecap a child.” Through the Facebook message, White told the artist, “your children are my end game.”
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
The case against White is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Art Crime Team.