NEW YORK – A homeless man with a history of playing an evil version of the "Sesame Street" character Elmo from coast to coast was charged Wednesday with trying to extort $2 million from the Girl Scouts.
Dan Sandler, arraigned on attempted grand larceny and other charges, pleaded not guilty, and a judge ordered him held on $200,000 bail.
Prosecutors in Manhattan alleged that the defendant, who also goes by the name Adam Sandler, last year began sending and leaving harassing emails and voice mails for a Girl Scouts supervisor he met while working a temp job at the nonprofit. They said that when the supervisor told him to stop contacting her, he threatened to spread false rumors about sex abuse in the organization unless it gave him a high-paying position or made him a millionaire.
"I want a telecommute job from home of life at 150K," prosecutors say he wrote in one of several rambling emails. "Or a two million dollar cash settlement. As you know, the newspapers like to cover my evil Elmo scenario."
Sandler also cautioned, "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," authorities said. Attached to another email was a photo of an Elmo costume stuffed in the trunk of a car, titled "Interstate Kidnapping of Elmo."
The emails "became increasingly alarming and bizarre," said Assistant District Attorney Lauren Littman.
Defense attorney Lawrence Gerzog, arguing for lower bail, told the judge that his client has "mental health issues" and that his rants were never a real threat.
There was no immediate response to a message left Wednesday with the Girl Scouts.
Sandler, 49, was accused last year of going on an anti-Semitic tirade while in a furry red Elmo costume in Times Square, where hustlers often dress up as pop culture characters and try to make a few bucks posing for photos with tourists. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was sentenced to two days of community service.
He left New York and took his Elmo act to San Francisco, where he lived in a car, authorities said. He was arrested there on a warrant in the New York extortion case on May 9.
He told an investigator following his arrest that he was being followed by the State Department, authorities said.