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    Sunday, March 03, 2024

    Convicted felon charged with blackmailing Mystic man over sex video

    Groton ― Town Police charged a Rhode Island man last month with allegedly threatening to make public a video in which he says he had sex with a 73-year-old Mystic man who had paid him for the encounter.

    It’s not clear whether the video exists but police said 24-year-old Paul E. Messer of Cranston claimed it existed and started harassing the victim and demanding money. He also threatened to release the video and expose the victim as gay, a fact that the victim told police was unknown to his friends and family and would have caused him emotional distress.

    Messer was arrested on Nov. 28 and has since pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree larceny by extortion, second-degree threatening, first-degree harassment and breach of peace. He remains held in prison on $250,000 bond. Court records show Messer was on probation at the time of the arrest after multiple criminal convictions in Rhode Island on charges including larceny and drug possession.

    The victim in this case came to Groton Town police in June 2022 to complain about Messer, who he had met three years prior through Craigslist. The victim told police he had paid Messer between $150 and $200 for sex about four times over a one-year period, according to the arrest warrant affidavit in the case.

    A year had elapsed when police said Messer, who had recently been released from prison, contacted the victim and asked for money. The victim, police said, felt bad for Messer and paid him in small amounts totaling between $400 and $500. By mid-2022, however, the victim told police he tried to cut ties with Messer and refused to pay him any more money.

    Messer, police said, threatened to kill the victim and release the alleged video if the victim did not pay him $1,000. The victim initially paid Messer $1,000 but he demanded more, police said.

    In a text message to the victim, police said Messer “threatened to kill the victim and go door-to-door with the video he possessed of the victim if he did not get the money,” the warrant states. That’s when the victim went to police.

    As part of the investigation, police obtained recordings of voicemails Messer allegedly left on the victim’s phone. A male voice can be heard in one recording saying, “I’m starting to lose my cool. I’m getting ready to post this (expletive.)” In another recording, police said the man says “I’m going to (expletive) show up there and kill you...”

    As part of the investigation, police said they obtained records that detailed the victim’s payments to Messer through Western Union and Cash App.

    Messer, who would not talk to police, is due to appear again in New London Superior Court on Dec. 19.

    g.smith@theday.com