MINEOLA, N.Y. – A couple arrested in a sexual blackmail scheme pointed fingers at one another, through their lawyers, as detectives pored over an estimated 100 hours of sexually explicit videotape in the case.
Shawn Payne, 34, of East Hampton, and her boyfriend, Michael Largue, 45, of Franklin Square have been charged with luring lonely hearts over the Internet into trysts and then blackmailing them.
But Payne's lawyer said Largue coerced her into participating in the plot.
"She was scammed by this guy and forced to do some things," the lawyer, Marc Gann, told Newsday. "Let's just say I think any acts she may have committed were done under duress."
But Largue's lawyer, Michaelangelo Matera, told the newspaper there was "absolutely no truth" to Gann's claims.
"The evidence we have so far is quite the contrary," Matera said. "It tends to implicate Ms. Payne much more than it does my client."
Payne and Largue were both arraigned earlier this week on grand larceny charges, and Payne was also charged with promoting prostitution and scheming to defraud. She was held on $20,000 bond, and Largue on $100,000 bond. Both were expected to make brief court appearances on Friday.
Sgt. Anthony Repalone, a Nassau County police spokesman, said police were examining the videotapes, spread sheets and other documents to see whether there might be more victims.
So far, only two people — a Long Island man and a woman from upstate New York — have reported being victimized, but the vast number of videotapes and other evidence seized from the suspects leads police to believe dozens may have been targeted. Repalone said Thursday afternoon that police have received a number of tips about additional cases, but detectives had yet to confirm any.
"We're getting calls because of the publicity, but we still have to check them out," he said.
The suspects met their victims on the Internet site AdultFriendFinder.com, police said. The site boasts it is "The World's Largest Sex and Swinger Personals Community."
In some cases, Payne, who called herself "Gina," would have encounters with men that were secretly videotaped and photographed by Largue — who used the online name "Mr. Nice." In other cases, Largue seduced women and Payne documented the sex, police said.
The two victims who have been identified were vulnerable to blackmail because each was in the midst of divorce proceedings, police said. Payne and Largue allegedly threatened to turn over the incriminating video and photos to the victims' families if they failed to pay.
The scheme unraveled on Sunday when the Long Island man, a 43-year-old Garden City resident, went to police, saying he had become involved in a relationship and was subsequently being blackmailed to keep it quiet. Police then located the 47-year-old woman from upstate New York. Largue allegedly told her he was a financial adviser and eventually cajoled her into giving him $51,000.
Largue held such sway over the woman, police said, that he eventually persuaded her to engage in acts of prostitution.
In 1998, Largue made headlines in western Canada when he announced he represented a Swiss investor who was interested in purchasing the Edmonton Oilers hockey team. He left town shortly after arriving and revelations about a shady past began to surface.
He also was reportedly interested in buying the now-defunct Hartford Whalers and Tampa Bay Lightning, but there is no evidence that he ever had the financial backing he claimed to buy any of the franchises.
In 1997 he pleaded guilty to charges of grand larceny and a scheme to defraud after telling fellow investors in a Rockville Centre co-op that he could secure $1 million loan at 1-percent interest to avoid foreclosure of the property. He received $39,400 to cover his fee and a bond, but never delivered the money. He was sentenced to 5 years probation and was ordered to pay $73,350 restitution.