A criminal complaint filed in Chicago's District Court claims Atlanta man Keifer Bonvillain, 36, targeted "a public figure and owner of a Chicago-based company." Local newspapers The Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times have named Winfrey as the victim in question.
Bonvillain is accused of illegally recording conversations with a Winfrey employee he met at a party over two years ago.
The complaint claims Bonvillain e-mailed the "owner" in October saying he had records of the employee saying unflattering comments about her.
Bonvillain is also alleged to have told the associate he would publish a book based on the recordings unless he received a substantial amount of money.
After the associate got in touch with the FBI, he agreed to a $1.5 million price for the tapes and offered to meet Bonvillain in a car park. Bonvillain was arrested the following day.
Bonvillain has refused to confirm or deny he attempted to extort money out of Winfrey, but says of the charges, "There is nothing to (the charges). It's nothing. It was a big mix-up."
The employee in question admits to discussing his employer with Bonvillain, but says, "At no time during any of these telephone conversations did I give Mr. Bonvillain permission to tape record our discussions; neither did Mr. Bonvillain inform me that he was recording our conversations."
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