Two Charged with Extorting Blackstone Exec

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Two men were arrested on Friday on charges of attempting to extort as much as $11 million from an executive of the London office of the Blackstone Group LP asset management firm, officials said.

A statement by the office of Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau identified the men as Stuart Ross, 71, the father-in-law of Blackstone senior managing director David Blitzer, and Stuart Jackson, 79, an attorney.

Lawyers for the two men could not immediately be reached for comment. A Blackstone Group spokesman did not comment since the allegations are a private matter.

The statement said Jackson, of Manhasset, New York, acted as Ross's attorney and “provided an imprimatur of legality to Ross's threats to ruin Blitzer's life, personally and professionally, unless Blitzer paid off Ross.”

The prosecutor said the threats were made in telephone voice mail messages, including one in which Ross reportedly told Blitzer he would “commit open warfare” against him.

Ross, of Aventura, Florida, is a non-practicing attorney, the prosecutor's office said. It said he has been estranged from his daughter, Allison Blitzer and her husband, David Blitzer, since 2002.

“The investigation leading to the arrests revealed that what began as Ross's demand for Blitzer to give him $50,000 in June 2008, escalated to a demand for as much as $11 million by August 2008,” the prosecutor's statement said.

Ross and Jackson were charged with one count of attempted grand larceny in the second degree and one count of grand larceny in the third degree, punishable by 2-1/3 to 7 years imprisonment if convicted.

In a separate civil lawsuit on Friday, Blitzer filed in New York State Supreme Court to sue Ross for $11 million. The lawsuit accused Ross of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from him in a “relentless campaign of harassment and threats” to Blitzer and his family.

(Reporting by Grant McCool; Editing by Andre Grenon)