Former Blackwater Employee Claims Pain Killers Led to Her Extortion Charge

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A former Blackwater USA employee said Friday an addiction to prescription pain killers led her to try to extort $1 million from the security company by threatening to leak information about the killings of four contractors in Iraq.

Laura Holdren-Nowacki, 35, of Moyock, made the admission in a statement released after she pleaded not guilty to one count of extortion.

District Attorney Frank Parrish said outside of court that, at Blackwater's request, he will ask Monday for the charge to be dropped.

Holdren-Nowacki said she suffered from "significant depression and severe migraine headaches" and had taken significantly larger doses of prescription medicine because of her pain.

"My addiction has literally destroyed my life and brought me to where I am today," Holdren-Nowacki said. "The allegations and statements that I made regarding Blackwater were the product of my addiction. I regret any harm or damage that they may have caused."

Holdren-Nowacki had said she had information related to the deaths of four security guards working under contract with Blackwater who were killed in Fallujah, Iraq, in March 2004. The men's bodies were mutilated and the charred remains were strung up on a bridge. Their families have sued Blackwater, alleging that the contractors weren't properly equipped or trained for their mission.

Camden County Sheriff Tony Perry said Holdren-Nowacki, a former fleet vehicle manager for Blackwater, threatened to release documents about the contractors' deaths to the media, members of Congress and family members of the dead men.

In the last of several threatening e-mails she sent to the company, Holdren-Nowacki demanded $1 million in cash and a 2006 Chevrolet Suburban in exchange for her silence, according to a search warrant affidavit.

The search didn't turn up any damaging documents about Blackwater, Perry said. Two computers taken from her home may be turned over to the State Bureau of Investigation, he said.

Holdren-Nowacki was fired in April and given a severance package, according to the affidavit. Blackwater provides security for State Department officials in Iraq, trains military units from around the world, and works for corporate clients.

Company lawyer Andy Howell said Friday the company intends to help Holdren-Nowacki get treatment for her addiction.

"We look out for our own even in tough times like these," he said in a statement.