Couple convicted in Stamos extortion case
Michigan pair could get could five years for $680,000 ployMARQUETTE, Mich. -- A Michigan couple were convicted Thursday of trying to extort $680,000 from actor John Stamos by threatening to sell old photos of him with strippers and cocaine to the tabloids unless he paid up.
Allison Coss, 24, and Scott Sippola, 31, were found guilty of conspiracy and using email to threaten a person's reputation -- charges that could land them in prison for up to five years.
FBI agents arrested the two in a sting in December at an Upper Peninsula airport after Stamos' lawyer complained that the actor was the target of an extortion attempt.
Defense attorneys told the jury that it wasn't a crime to sell photos to Stamos before going to the tabloids. FBI agents, however, testified that a search of the couple's home failed to turn up any evidence of embarrassing pictures.
Stamos, 46, was too late to the courtroom to hear the verdict but was present minutes later when the judge polled each juror, a common step in trials. He smiled and looked relieved. Sippola was expressionless while Coss wiped her eyes.
Dozens of fans waited to congratulate the former "ER" and "Full House" star as he left the federal courthouse. In a written statement, Stamos said he was "shocked and perplexed" by the "false stories" offered by Coss and defense lawyers.
"These slanderous allegations to smear my reputation were part of their defense to redirect attention away from the federal crime of extortion," he said. "There was no hot tub, no drugs, no nudity and nothing sexual in nature involved in my friendship with this woman. They lied about everything."
Coss, who met Stamos in Florida in 2004 at age 17, said she had a photo of him with cocaine but that it disappeared during an FBI raid on her home. Agents denied it.
"I don't think Shakespeare could write a story to set up a fake blackmail scheme to set up a real blackmail scheme. But that is exactly what they did," Assistant U.S. Attorney Maarten Vermaat told the jury.
"This is completely 100% made up," he said of the "get-rich-quick scheme."
As Stamos watched and listened from the front row, defense attorney Sarah Henderson said Coss and Sippola were "in over their heads" but didn't commit a crime.
"What happens to the pictures? I don't know the answer to that. I wish I did," Henderson told the jury, adding that it would be a "stretch" to believe Coss and Sippola would craft a scheme but have nothing to sell to Stamos or the tabloids.
There is no dispute that Stamos met Coss after he had just separated from his supermodel wife, Rebecca Romijn and stayed in touch with her.
Stamos testified that he did not use cocaine or act inappropriately in 2004. He said Coss sent him e-mails last year saying a man was harassing her about having incriminating photos of the pair.
"I'll bust him up. ... We didn't take any bad pics. I'm too smart," Stamos replied in an e-mail.
Defense lawyer Frank Stupak Jr. said the verdict was disappointing but the trial was fair.