Two men were charged with plotting to extort more than $1 million from Tom Cruise for the actor`s stolen weddingphotographs, federal authorities announced Friday.
David Hans Schmidt, known for brokering deals involving compromising celebrity photos and videos, and Marc Lewis Gittleman, were arrested this week, according to a criminal complaint.
Gittleman, of West Hollywood, obtained photos of the actor`s wedding in Italy last year to Katie Holmes from the event`s official photographer, the complaint said.
The photographer, identified as Joshua Bobrove, reportedly had taken a damaged computer hard drive containing the weddingphotos to Gittleman to employ his services as a data recovery expert.
Gittleman then made copies of photos on the drive and kept them for himself, authorities said. He contacted Schmidt after finding a Web site touting his abilities to broker celebrity photos.
In the past two months, Schmidt had repeated contact with Cruise representatives and threatened to shop the photos around if he didn`t receive $1.25 million to $1.35 million, officials said. He claimed there were about 7,600 weddingphotos total, and at one point e-mailed the actor`s representatives 13 images as proof he had them.
"He said that the client would turn to the black market and find a buyer for the photos," said Peter Brust, a special agent in charge in the FBI`s Los Angeles office.
It wasn`t immediately clear whether Schmidt or Gittleman had retained attorneys. Schmidt, who lives in Phoenix, was released on $100,000 bond.
Schmidt, 47, was arrested after an undercover FBI agent attended a meeting in West Hollywood between Schmidt and Cruise`s representatives. Federal agents were led to Gittleman, 33, by a license plate number they discovered on a slip of paper in Schmidt`s car.
Schmidt also has tried to auction off Paris Hilton`s diaries, along with photos of her in various stages of undress and other personal items that had been locked away in a Los Angeles-area storage locker until a few months ago.
Over the years, Schmidt has claimed to have brokered deals to sell a sex video of Dustin Diamond, who played Screech on "Saved by the Bell," and a video of skater Tonya Harding`s wedding night, according to published reports. He also claimed to have obtained topless shots of rescued U.S. Army POW Pfc. Jessica Lynch.
Schmidt was charged with sending communications for purposes of extortion, the criminal complaint said. Gittleman was charged with conspiracy to commit extortion. If convicted, Schmidt faces as many as two years in prison and Gittleman as many as five years.
A message left with Cruise`s publicist was not immediately returned.