A former US Dentons associate is facing a criminal complaint of extortion against the firm after allegedly threatening to leak confidential information to a US legal blog unless Dentons paid him $210,000.
Michael Potere was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in June following allegations by Dentons that he downloaded confidential files and emails used in an attempt to extort money from the firm, according to an affidavit filed in the Central District Court of California.
Potere was charged with interference with commerce by threats or violence under section 18 of U.S. Code 1951.
The Los Angeles-based former associate, who left the firm on 1 June, was accused of accessing the documents after the firm rejected his request to continue working with Dentons up until he began a graduate degree in political science in the autumn. He was allegedly told his last day at the firm would be June 1, having joined in 2015
The documents were reportedly obtained from a senior partner’s email account, to which Potere had been granted access while the pair were both working on a case.
The affidavit states that he then took the documents and, in a series of meetings with partners, threatened to leak the files and emails to US legal blog ‘Above The Law’, unless Denton met his demand of $210,000 and a piece of artwork near his office.
The affidavit states that Potere installed software on his computer that would automatically send the documents to the blog if the demands were not met by a certain date. Discussing his reasons for his actions, documents state that Potere told two partners at the firm ‘people his age were getting “screwed” and that hypothetically he might have a chance to “screw back”.’
A UK spokesperson declined to comment by press time but in a separate statement in media reports said that the firm would cooperate with law enforcement and it was ‘very appreciative of the highly professional and diligent nature with which the FBI and the United States Attorney’s office have conducted their investigation’.