Feds want butler to serve 25 to 30 years in extortion case involving phony virus

New Haven - A former butler convicted of trying to extort millions of dollars from philanthropist Anne H. Bass should be sent to prison for 25 to 30 years because of the emotional trauma she and her companion endured after they were injected with what masked intruders claimed was a deadly virus, federal prosecutors said.

Emanuel Nicolescu is scheduled to be sentenced Friday in New Haven. His attorneys say he should get no more than eight years in prison.

Bass thought she was going to die during the five-hour ordeal, prosecutors said in court papers Saturday. Three armed intruders broke into her Kent home in 2007, injected her and her companion and refused to provide an "antidote" unless they turned over $8.5 million. The injected substance turned out to be harmless.

"For those harrowing hours, the peace and quiet of their home was destroyed, replaced by the 'war cries' of the defendant and his co-conspirators, intent on a big pay-day and without regard for the people whose lives they would upend in the process," prosecutors wrote.

A jury found Nicolescu guilty of attempted extortion and other charges. He was the only one arrested in the case.

Nicolescu was a butler at Bass' estate from March 2006 until he was fired on May 8, 2006, after crashing her Jeep during an unauthorized trip, prosecutors said. He was likely an organizer and leader of the home invasion, and his former job provided him with key information to execute it, such as the need for walkie-talkies because of spotty cellphone coverage, prosecutors said.

Bass suffered a large bruise from the painful injection, authorities said. Prosecutors also noted that her 3-year-old grandson was home at the time and said one of the intruders threatened to kidnap the child, who was not injured.

Nicolescu's lawyers say he should get a sentence of up to eight years, because no one was hurt and no property was taken in what they called a "wholly unrealistic pipe dream."

They said Nicolescu was sexually abused as a child by a female teacher and led an otherwise law-abiding life. They said the idea that Nicolescu was a leader was speculative.

"The offense conduct in this case was a one-night affair, reflecting an incredible lack of planning, and was wholly out of character for a young man with no prior arrests, who came from a good family, had a steady employment record and was uniformly viewed by one and all as a sweet, gentle and kind person," his attorneys wrote.

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