A 39-year-old man admitted in federal court Tuesday to extorting money from married men in the Kansas City area with whom he was having extramarital affairs, according to court records.
Joshua Lee Ellenberger pleaded guilty to a single count of extortion, a felony offense that carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison under federal law. For the purpose of the plea agreement, Ellenberger admitted to a series of facts outlined by prosecutors, including his statement to investigators that he performed the same crime on several others.
According to the plea agreement, the offense for which Ellenberger pleaded guilty took place in February 2018. He met a man over the dating app Grindr, secretly recorded “sexual activity” between them and then threatened to leak the video to the man’s wife.
Ellenberger wanted $3,000 to keep quiet, court papers say. During a text message conversation in mid-February, as the money exchange was being arranged, Ellenberger apparently did not know that a Kansas City police detective was reading the messages and responding back.
In one of the messages, Ellenberger allegedly said: “I assure you that if you notify anyone and or think I am not serious and try to roll me on this purchase I will make sure you never cheat on your wife again,” adding “you shouldn’t take her for granted.”
In a police interview, Ellenberger allegedly admitted that he was sleeping with married men and secretly recording the encounters. He said he did the same thing to about 10 men in total, asking for payments that ranged from $200 to $2,000, according to court records.
Information of the crime was first filed in court papers Tuesday in the Western District of Missouri, as Ellenberger was arrested and pleaded guilty. He was released on his own recognizance ahead of his sentencing hearing, court documents show.