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Records show other possible extortion

Pair accused of threatening woman might have done the same to another couple earlier.

April 05, 2010|By Joseph Serna

While prosecutors allege that a Newport Beach man was extorting a local woman through threats of smearing her reputation, for a time authorities believed he was going to do much worse, civil court records show.

Michael Earl Roberts, 44, who lives in Corona del Mar, was arrested June 13, 2008, by Newport Beach police on suspicion of trying to extort $350,000 from Priscilla and Richard Marconi, a wealthy Newport Beach couple, who had hired him years ago as a personal trainer for Richard Marconi.

Roberts’ lawyer, James Toledano, the former chairman of Orange County Democratic Party, was arrested on suspicion of extortion for his role in the alleged plot.

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According to an application for an emergency protective order against Roberts from the Marconis and their attorney, Paul Roper, which was signed by a Newport Beach detective in 2008, Roberts had said he had a 9 mm handgun and was going to use it against Priscilla Marconi.

In three separate 2008 harassment complaints filed against Roberts by the Marconis and Roper, the three portray Roberts as a man bent on ruining Priscilla Marconi’s life. In court statements, Priscilla Marconi wrote that Roberts blamed her for her husband’s firing of him. In fact, he was fired after his behavior dramatically changed in 2004, about the time they believed he was using methamphetamines, the couple alleged in court documents.

Roberts harassed the Marconis at work, on their cell phones and at home, prosecutors claim. In one day, Priscilla Marconi claimed in her harassment complaints, that Roberts called her 40 times. He also allegedly left threatening voice mail messages for her and her friends saying he would smear her reputation and sue her.

She said Roberts had created a world “that did not exist anywhere but in his mind,” where he and her had a sexual affair and she would eventually leave Richard Marconi for Roberts and take off with a substantial portion of her husband’s wealth.

The court filed a restraining order barring Roberts from getting near Priscilla Marconi, but when that expired, he was back to harassing her, she claimed. He was arrested as his statements appeared to grow more threatening and he demanded cash to not drag her name through the mud, authorities said.

Roberts and Toledano were indicted on extortion charges Friday and are free on $100,000 bail. They are scheduled to be arraigned Friday.


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