CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- An out-of-the-blue alleged attempted extortion plot related to greyhound racing has thrown a wrench into the tightening gubernatorial contest here with just three days left until Election Day.
A Florida man was arrested Thursday in California by federal authorities for an alleged extortion plot with ties to the race. The man had threatened to release a video that portrayed dog racing negatively to the campaign of businessman Bill Maloney if he was not given $50,000, according to a complaint filed by federal authorities.
According to the complaint, the man, Harry Marshall Rae, contacted Dean Miner, a West Virginia greyhound breeder, to say that if he did not receive the money, he would release videos that allegedly show inhumane treatment of greyhounds at a facility in another state.
The Republican Maloney has leveled attacks against Democratic acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in the campaign, charging the acting governor has used his position to benefit his family's dog racing business.
"Dean, I've got some real distressing news for you," Rae wrote to Miner in a September 16 email, according to the complaint. "I have four hours of video taken at Kay Smiths last year."
"To make this go away for all of you and your buddies up in W.V, I'd like a contribution of $50,000 made out to a Boy Scout troop of my choosing," Rae goes on to say in the email, according to the complaint.
According to the complaint, Rae also sent a message to Tomblin via the state's "Submit a Comment to the Governor" feature on the governor's official website.
"Gov, you need to act on this immediatly (sic) [NOW] get ahold of your mother and kennel owner DEAN MINER AT Wheeling."
The complaint also alleges that Rae sent an email to Miner on Sept. 22, indicating that he received "several requests for videos from Maloney's chief of staff."
"Nobody from our campaign has ever had any contact with the individuals named in this case," said Maloney spokeswoman Michelle Yi,
in a statement Friday. "The men and women of the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office are to be commended for their swift action against this extortion plot involving the Governor and for bringing this individual to justice."
The complaint also includes an email Rae allegedly forwarded to Miner that was sent to Rae from Carey Theil
, executive director of Grey2K USA, a nonprofit group that opposes dog racing. Theil endorsed Maloney
"Would you be willing to talk to someone, and educate them about dog racing? The conversation would be completely confidential," an alleged Sept. 20 email from Theil to Rae that is included in the complaint reads. Rae's response email said he was "okay with it."
Rae writes to Miner in an alleged email on Sept. 22: "On Theil, I've never before trusted him, but the other party IS offering $100,000. for the videos that pertain to West Vir., plus a consolting (sic) job for 2 years,,, if they win."
The Tomblin campaign, which distributed the warrant to reporters on Friday, is calling on Maloney to answer questions about the allegations and release all emails to/from staffers, consultants and advisers to Thiel and Rae.
"When the message was left on the governor's website, that threat was handled the way all threats are, to any state office and turned over to the proper authorities," Tomblin told Hotline On Call
in an interview in Logan after a rally on Saturday afternoon. "I think they are handling that now and we'll see where it goes.
"GREY2K USA had no knowledge whatsoever of Mr. Rae's alleged plot," Theil said in a Friday statement, according to the AP
. "We are outraged by Mr. Rae's alleged actions, and if the allegations are true he should be held accountable."