Photo via Pixabay
Photo via Pixabay

A prosecutor told a jury Tuesday that a telecommunications executive handed over $500,000 and a car worth nearly $180,000 to a porn actor who blackmailed him with threats of public exposure of paid sexual liaisons with X-rated performers, but the defense countered that the defendant was only trying to get what was promised following a two-year relationship.

Teo Brank — who performs under the name Jarec Wentworth in adult films and on gay porn sites — was arrested in March in an FBI sting after an agent posing as the alleged extortion victim’s friend met with the actor at a Starbucks in El Segundo and handed over title to an Audi R8 and discussed transfer of $1 million, according to court documents.

The alleged victim’s name — Florida millionaire Donald Burns — was mentioned in open court today for the first time. He was previously identified in court documents by his initials.

In his opening statement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Eddie Jauregui described Burns as an openly gay businessman and donor to various social and political causes who frequently paid homoerotic actors and models for sexual encounters.

Burns initially paid Brank about $2,000 for sex, then began asking the defendant to introduce him to other porn actors, offering Brank a $2,000 “referral” payment for each introduction, and more if he joined in, according to the prosecutor.

When Burns broke off their relationship, Brank threatened to expose on social media Burns’ predilection for “sex for pay,” telling the businessman in a text message that he could “bring your house down,” Jauregui told jurors.

Burns “panicked,” the prosecutor said, and when Brank demanded $500,000 and the Audi to keep quiet, the businessman complied, transferring the money to Brank’s bank account and delivering the car.

“I’m just going to bite hard,” Brank texted, according to an affidavit prepared by an FBI agent who investigated the case. “I want a new car, motorcycle and both hands full of cash.”

Jauregui told the jury that just two weeks later, Brank upped the ante, ordering Burns to hand over $1 million and the Audi’s certificate of title.

At that point, Burns went to the FBI, the prosecutor said, and Brank was arrested in the Starbucks sting as Burns watched on a live video feed at the FBI’s Westwood offices.

Defense attorney Seema Ahmad offered jurors an alternative narrative.

Brank was part of the “gay for pay” world, where straight men engage in homosexual acts for cash, she said.

Ahmad said that during their two-year friendship, Burns “groomed, mentored and counseled” her client, but never made good on his promise to help Brank pursue a modeling career outside of porn.

Brank didn’t threaten Burns with online exposure, Ahmad said. Instead, the defense attorney said, Brank merely wanted to tell his Twitter friends “what happened to him,” and he wanted “what was owed to him.”

The attorney told the panel that Burns paid Brank not because he was worried about his reputation, but because he truly owed Brank the money and car for services rendered.

Burns’ “reputation was never threatened,” Ahmad said, adding that Brank “only asked for the money that was promised to him and was deserved.”

“Teo Brank is not guilty,” she told the federal jury.

Brank, 25, who lived most recently in Sacramento, could face more than 10 years in federal prison if convicted of federal extortion and related counts.

Prosecutors said evidence would include the testimony of Burns, gay porn actors, and a recording of a phone conversation between Burns and Brank. U.S. District Judge John F. Walter said the trial would probably conclude Thursday.

—City News Service

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