Since early last month, a pair of prominent businessmen in Toronto’s Leaside area say they have been the victims of an attempted extortion scheme.
Realtor Patrick Rocca and Andy Elder, owner of the Grilltime meat shop, said they have both been ordered to pay $250,000 US in Bitcoin to someone claiming to be a member of the renowned hacker group Anonymous.
If they don’t do so by a particular deadline, the person on the other end of multiple emails threatens to damage the reputations of them and their families with claims the men said are completely false.
Rocca said he discovered the first email in his “spam” folder on Oct. 4.
“(I) clicked on it, opened it up, read it and right away I was like, ‘whoa, this is not normal.’”
Rocca provided a copy of that email to Global News.
“Patrick, Anonymous received multiple mailings from Leaside residents,” it began.
“They are tired of your ads and cowboy attitude.”
The email goes on to inform Rocca that a website has been created to ruin his reputation, demanded “exactly 58 Bitcoins” and issued a warning:
“If you go to the police or press or do anything but comply? (We will know if you do)..
“Anonymous will upgrade the website with a proper design and it will be on the top spot of google when your name is searched. The content on the website will be updated with over 100 negative reviews. It is hosted on our private offshore server and can never be removed
“Anonymous will send print flyers to everyone in Leaside with the website to ruin your reputation.”
The letter also threatened to attack the reputation of Rocca’s son. Something he said took things a step too far.
“When I read the part about my son, that’s when my heart sank,” Rocca said.
“When it brings in your family, that’s a different level.”
Andy Elder received his version of the email on Oct. 9, five days after Rocca. He characterized it as “threatening.”
“It was not violent but (contained) harassment, extortion … making false claims about people.”
One of those people was Elder’s daughter.
Like they did to Rocca, those responsible for the emails created a website using her name and attacked her reputation. Both websites have since been taken down by police order.
Elder said he’s not intimidated but does wonder “why? Why me? Why my family?”
Toronto Police said investigators at 53 Division are doing what they can, but given the online nature of the crime it poses difficulties for them.
“(The suspects) may not actually be here within the GTA, they might be overseas,” Const. Jenifferjit Sidhu said.
“So it takes a little bit longer, involves a lot more resources.”
Having been involved in multiple community events over the years, Rocca and Elder are fairly well known in Leaside; and based on how much detail is in those emails, they feel like the person or persons responsible for this is probably based there too.
“It mentioned my daughter, specifically, by name. It mentioned her brother, my son, not by name. And my wife’s name,” Elder said.
In the last emails they received, Rocca and Elder were given until Nov. 30 to pay up.
“There will be no money exchanged,” Elder said.
Rocca agreed with his friend.
“Absolutely not … I guess we’ll wait until Nov. 30 and see what happens.”
They said they’ve come forward with their story to reach out to any other potential victims and to stand up to whomever is responsible for the emails.