FBI: Portland man tried to extort $1M from ‘popular’ celebrity

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The FBI arrested a Southeast Portland man for allegedly trying to extort $1 million from a celebrity over an altercation during a nude massage.

According to court documents, Benjamin Joseph Koziol tried to “extract monetary payment from a popular entertainer.” Throughout the criminal complaint filed by an FBI special agent in California, the celebrity is only referred to as “Entertainer.”

Koziol was asking for a $1 million payment from the entertainer or threatened to file a lawsuit in California that would negatively impact the entertainer’s “squeaky clean” reputation, according to the criminal complaint.

Koziol made repeated claims the entertainer physically assaulted him and sexually assaulted his wife in January 2016 in Playa Vista during a nude massage.

The celebrity’s name was not disclosed in publicly available court documents and the FBI declined to comment to KOIN 6 News on the case.

Wednesday morning, Koziol was arrested after a search warrant was carried out in the 11600 block of SE Madison Street. He  was taken to U.S. District Court by the U.S. Marshals Office and made his first court appearance before Magistrate Judge Stacie F. Beckerman.

“The investigation has shown that Entertainer was not present at the time and location these assaults allegedly took place,” according to the FBI criminal complaint.

“Based on the investigation to date, Koziol’s allegations appear to be a baseless attempt to extract monetary payment from Entertainer through false allegations.” — Criminal complaint

The FBI determined – through multiple interviews – that it was the celebrity’s manager who received the nude massage on Jan. 10, 2016 in Playa Vista, California. Like the celebrity, the manager is not identified in court documents and the FBI declined to say who he is.

Although the manager has continuously denied any wrongdoing occurred during the nude massage, he did settle with the masseuse — Koziol’s wife — for $225,000. Specific details of the settlement were not disclosed because of a non-disclosure agreement.

Koziol’s wife is not being charged with any criminal wrongdoing. It appears, based on the criminal complaint against Koziol, he acted alone.

“Based on the investigation to date, Koziol’s allegations appear to be a baseless attempt to extract monetary payment from Entertainer through false allegations,” according to the criminal complaint.

In U.S. District Court on Wednesday, Judge Beckerman denied Koziol’s request for release. Eventually, Koziol will be transferred down to federal court in California, where the case is being prosecuted.

Summary of FBI investigation

The FBI was made aware of the extortion attempt on October 31, 2017. Two days after the FBI learned about Koziol’s alleged involvement they met with the manager and one of his attorneys at the FBI Field Office in Los Angeles. 

During that meeting, the manager told federal investigators that on December 25, 2015, he saw a posting on the website Backpage.com for a “nude massage.”

The manager told feds he saw a posting for a “nude massage” on Backpage.com

That same day, the manager reached out to the person offering the nude massage via text message to schedule an appointment. The manager later discovered there was a scheduling conflict and the massage did not occur as originally intended.

In January 2016, the manager contacted the masseuse over text message to schedule an appointment for a nude massage. The FBI determined the massage occurred on Jan. 10, 2016 at the masseuse’s apartment.

The manager told the FBI he was disappointed in the nude massage provided by the woman and that he expected to receive more, but he “emphatically stated that he never touched or grabbed [the woman] during the massage.” 

When questioned by the FBI, the manager told agents that he never saw Koziol at the apartment “and that he definitely did not punch anyone.”

The manager told federal investigators that a few days after the massage, he received a phone call from an attorney representing the masseuse. The attorney told the celebrity’s manager that he was accused of physically and sexually assaulting the woman during the massage.  

The masseuse — again, Koziol’s wife — was seeking a $250,000 settlement.

“Manager said that after he discovered he would spend almost that much in legal fees to defend himself, he decided to settle and ‘move on.’ Manager was particularly sensitive to the fact that his career was taking off and that any negative publicity would reflect unfavorably on his clients,” the criminal complaint states.

Manager settles with masseuse, pays $225,000

On Dec. 14, 2017, federal investigators met with an attorney associated with the manager. The attorney told investigators that in January 2016, the manager came to her with two voicemails that he had received from the masseuse’s attorney. She also disclosed a letter the woman’s attorney sent that demanded $250,000 or a lawsuit would be filed. 

Another attorney from the firm wrote the woman’s attorney back and said the allegations against the manager were false. The letter detailed text messages in which the masseuse detailed her plan to “shake down” the manager.

In August 2016, one of the manager’s attorneys called a man back who claimed to be the masseuse’s husband. The man identified himself as Koziol and said that he wanted to speak with the attorney’s client, the manager. Koziol told the attorney he was, in fact, at the apartment when the nude massage occurred in January 2016. He claimed he was in a back bedroom and heard his wife telling the manager that no touching was allowed during the massage.

The attorney told Koziol that her client “was extorted once and it would not happen again.”

Koziol was given an opportunity to meet with the manager’s attorney but never took her up on the offer.

On December 30, 2016, a law firm in California received a demand letter from another attorney. This time the demand letter included allegations the unnamed entertainer physically assaulted Koziol on January 10, 2016 during the massage. 

Attorneys drafted a response to the demand letter and it was the manager, not the celebrity, who got the massage. The letter also stated Koziol had tried the “same criminal shakedown four months ago,” referring to the phone call Koziol had with the manager’s attorney.

The FBI later learned attorneys for the manager had a short phone conversation with the masseuse on the afternoon of July 6, 2017. During the phone call, the woman was “sobbing” and said that her “husband, whatever he is doing, I have nothing to do with it.”

The FBI reviewed communications between Koziol and the celebrity’s representatives from October 15, 2017 to November 1, 2017.

On October 15, 2017, around 5:42 p.m., the celebrity’s manager received an email from a Yahoo account that was signed by Koziol, with his old phone number listed in the signature block. In the body of the email, Koziol stated that he was attempting to contact the entertainer regarding “a very serious confidential matter.”

Email traced to 2 addresses in Portland

The FBI served Yahoo with a federal subpoena for information on the account holder of the email. The information came back and showed that it was created October 12, 2017 and subscribed to “Ben K.” The company also provided two different IP address.

Using that information, the FBI sent a federal subpoena to Comcast to get information on the IP address. That information revealed one address being registered to a hotel in the 9700 block of NE Sandy and the other to a home in the 11600 block of SE Madison Street, both in Portland.

Koziol communicated over email with the attorney representing the celebrity. In one of the emails, Koziol sent a photo which he claimed was proof that he was assaulted by the celebrity during the massage.

The FBI reviewed that photo and determined the man in the photo was, in fact, Koziol but that the photo was taken on December 7, 2016, at 9:12 p.m. 

Koziol claimed the assault, however, occurred January 10, 2016, approximately 11 months after Koziol claimed the entertainer had punched him at his apartment. Koziol claimed he had hospital bills as well but never turned those over to the celebrity’s attorneys.

“The firm doesn’t comment on client matters,” attorney J. Reid Hunter, one of the people who reportedly represents the celebrity, said in an email to KOIN 6 News.

In an email to Koziol, the attorneys called his actions “serious violations of federal criminal law” and the attempt to extract a $1 million payment was “nothing short of extortion.”

On December 7, 2017, the entertainer and his attorney met with federal investigators at the FBI building in Los Angeles. The entertainer said that he had never seen Koziol or the masseuse before. He denied ever getting a nude massage in January 2016 in Playa Vista, California.

The FBI then reviewed the entertainer’s banking records that showed he was more than 20 miles away from the apartment where his manager received the nude massage on Jan. 10, 2016. The bank records show the celebrity went to a grocery store to get a specific kind of soda and then got pizza to take home.

Court records show Koziol has been convicted in Minnesota for driving while impaired, domestic abuse, interfering with a police officer, depriving another of parental right by concealing a minor. He has also been convicted in California for pimping and pandering. He was sentenced to 4 years in prison but was out on bail, at the time of his arrest, pending appeal.

The masseuse, Koziol’s wife, was also convicted in California for pimping and pandering. She, too, was out on bail pending the appeal. Both are due back in court on Jan. 24, 2018 for the appeal hearing in California.

Other attorneys and representatives named in the complaint have not returned phone calls or emails from KOIN 6 News regarding this matter.

KOIN 6 News reached out to the masseuse but have not heard back from her.   

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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