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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

TV Producer Held In Blackmail Sting

A television producer has been arrested after he accepted $20,000 not to air an embarrassing report about the top executive at a state-owned company, police said Wednesday.

The producer, Alexei Osipov, 41, was arrested in a sting operation on Friday at a restaurant in northern Moscow, said Ruslan Shikhmagomedov, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry's department to fight organized crime and terrorism.

Shikhmagomedov refused to identify the executive, saying only that he headed a major state-owned enterprise.

Osipov has been charged with extortion and could face up to seven years behind bars if convicted.

Police said Osipov, posing as an employee of a state-controlled television channel, called the executive at work several times last month and told him a compromising news report about him would be aired in early April.

Osipov said the report would be broadcast on NTV television if he did not receive $20,000, city prosecutors said in a statement.

Police and prosecutors declined to elaborate on the content of the report.

The executive reported the threat to police, who set up a sting operation at the Twin Pigs restaurant, near the Ostankino television complex. Osipov was arrested after accepting the $20,000 from an undercover police officer, Shikhmagomedov said.

Shikhmagomedov said Osipov had a pass for the Ostankino complex and that he worked for the television company Public Media.

Repeated calls to Public Media went unanswered Wednesday. A company source told Pravda.ru that Osipov had worked for the company, but had never been a permanent member of staff.

"The blackmailer was most likely passing himself off as our employee," the source said.

Public Media produces entertainment and educational programs -- including "Dog Show," "Travels of a Nature Lover," and "Plant Life" -- and sells them to television channels, Gazeta.ru reported.

Police said Osipov had admitted to working with unidentified persons to produce and broadcast compromising materials on state officials, politicians and businessmen.

In one of the best-known media blackmail cases, a Moscow court convicted Yulia Pelekhova, editor of the web site Dossier.ru, in August 2004 of blackmailing businesswoman Oksana Tokareva.

Pelekhova was given a 7 1/2-year sentence for demanding $100,000 from Tokareva in exchange for not disclosing documents that supposedly implicated Tokareva in criminal activity. Pelekhova was arrested in a Moscow restaurant in January 2003 after she received a down payment of $38,500 in marked bills.

She was sentenced to jail time, but a higher court softened her punishment last year to a 7 1/2-year suspended sentence.