A New York City homeless man known for portraying an evil version of Elmo, the popular ‘Sesame Street’ character, was charged Wednesday with trying to extort $2 million from the Girl Scouts, announced Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance on June 5.
Dan Sandler pleaded not guilty and was arraigned on attempted grand larceny and other charges. A judge ordered him held on $200,000 bail.
Manhattan prosecutors allege Sandler sent a series of harassing emails and voice mails to a Girl Scouts supervisor whom he met while working a temp job at the organization.
“The defendant is accused of trying to use his widely publicized criminal history to extort millions of dollars from the Girl Scouts, a nonprofit organization that has worked to improve the lives of girls and young women for more than a century,” said District Attorney Vance. “The charges against the defendant also detail his harassment of a Girl Scout employee with dozens of threatening and bizarre emails, photos, and phone messages.”
Sandler’s behavior allegedly escalated after the supervisor told him to stop. Prosecutors claim he threatened to spread false claims that the Girl Scouts arranged sexual encounters between adult men and underage girls at a scout camp – unless he was given a well-paid position or $2 million.
“I want a telecommute job from home of life at 150K,” prosecutors allege Sandler wrote in one of the emails, reports the Huffington Post/AP. “Or a two million dollar cash settlement. As you know, the newspapers like to cover my evil Elmo scenario.”
Sandler reportedly also said, “How you treat me as a person will go a long way in regards to how I treat the Girl Scouts in the press, on the Internet and on u-tube [sic].”
Yet another alleged email included a photo of an Elmo costume stuffed into a car trunk, captioned with “Interstate Kidnapping of Elmo.”
Sandler’s “Evil Elmo” reputation refers to his anti-Semitic rant last year in NYC’s Times Square dressed as the loveable “Sesame Street” character. Sandler is one of many buskers who dress in pop-culture costumes in order to collect a few dollars posing for photos at tourist destinations.
For that incident, Sandler pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was sentenced to two days of community service. He later moved to San Francisco to continue his Elmo act. Sandler was arrested there on a warrant in the New York extortion case on May 9, and transported back to NYC on June 4.
Sandler’s defense attorney argued for a lower bail, saying his client is mentally ill and that his messages never posed a real threat.
Sandler continues to be held pending bail, and is due back in court June 13.
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