DALLAS (CN) - A U.S. citizen in Romania threatened to ruin a merger and acquisitions firm's online reputation by linking it to highly ranked search results that are scams, federal prosecutors say.
William Laurence Stanley, 51, and his sister, Lynn Stanley Faust, 54, were charged Wednesday with transmitting threats in interstate and foreign commerce and Hobbs Act extortion. If convicted, they face up to 2 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine on the first charge and 20 years and a $250,000 fine on the second.
Stanley and Faust allegedly ran a search engine optimization company. The indictment alleges that in November 2009, Dallas-based Generational Equity (GE) contracted Stanley - then in Texas - for search optimization services and reputation management.
It states that Generational Equity fired Stanley after observing "websites allegedly created by Stanley that had the ability to damage GE's reputation by associating GE with a scam."
Generational Equity paid Stanley a total of $80,000 from November 2010 to January 2011, prosecutors said.
"From December 13, 2013, until the end of February 2014, Stanley and Faust transmitted threatening communications, via email and telephone, from foreign countries to GE," the indictment states. "Those communications threatened to post comments on the Internet wrongfully disparaging GE's reputation, if GE did not send money to Stanley."
GE ended up wiring four additional payments totaling $29,556 to Stanley in Brasoz, Romania, prosecutors claim.
Stanley was arrested on March 3 at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston after travelling several times between Europe and the United States in 2013. He has yet to appear before a federal judge in Dallas.