Fore Note: I share the story below because the Oak Ridge lab is so near us.
TV "Millionaire" Busted By Feds On Extortion Rap
Suspect nabbed for shakedown at U.S. nuclear materials facility
MAY 29---A Tennessee man who recently appeared as a wealthy bachelor on Bravo’s “The Millionaire Matchmaker” show was arrested Friday by federal agents for allegedly trying to extort millions of dollars by threatening to make public evidence of negligent practices at a federal nuclear materials facility, The Smoking Gun has learned.
Adam Winters, 25, was named in a May 23 criminal complaint charging him with attempting to extort money through an interstate communication, a felony. Winters, seen at right, is scheduled for a June 6 preliminary hearing in U.S. District Court in Knoxville.
During a February appearance on “The Millionaire Matchmaker,” Winters described himself as a CEO who lived in Beverly Hills and had a net worth in excess of $1 million. Last week, however, a federal magistrate ruled that Winters was eligible for a court-appointed lawyer since his sworn financial affidavit revealed that he “does not have the funds to retain an attorney.”
Reached by phone last night, Winters replied “I have no idea,” when asked about the criminal case. He then hung up on a TSG reporter.
As detailed in the criminal complaint, Winters earlier this month sent an e-mail to the firm that manages and operates the Y-12 National Security Complex, a Department of Energy facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee that produces and refurbishes nuclear weapons components and stores nuclear material. Built as part of the Manhattan Project, the Y-12 facility was used to enrich uranium for the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
In his May 8 e-mail, Winters wrote that he had acquired 1200 slides that included “evidence from testing the bombs, to documentation on how much radiation was used on animals and contamination of the plants. Some pictures of them even building the bombs.”
The slides--“from the 1940’s-1980’s”--contain “enough documentation that shows enough evidence where this could win tons and tons of lawsuits if they were to get out,” Winters wrote in the e-mail, which he also sent to the FBI’s Knoxville office and Vice President Joe Biden. The correspondence, which included Winters’s name and phone number, concluded with the warning, “You have 48 hours to respond before these go to Auction.”
After learning of the e-mail, DOE agents launched an undercover operation during which Winters contended that public disclosure of the slides “would be disastrous.” Noting that the photos contained “images of animals, coordinates, and hazardous waste,” Winters said that he “figured you did not want the stuff to get out.”
During a phone conversation with an undercover agent, Winters referred to an old lawsuit that was filed by residents who claimed that pollution from Oak Ridge nuclear facilities had damaged their property. A few of the slides in his possession, Winters said, had been used in that case (which Winters said was settled out of court for nearly $8 million).
In a conversation with a second DOE undercover operative, Winters said, “I have 1200 slides, and I thought you all would want them because of the potential lawsuit if they got in the wrong hands.” He added that the material would be damaging to the Y-12 facility and the nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a DOE research center.
During a May 20 meeting with an undercover agent, Winters brought a binder containing “images of several slides and eight original slides,” according to the felony complaint. “I don’t know what they are worth,” he said, adding “it ain’t worth leaking them out. It’s not worth the headache. I would rather give them to you and be done with it.” Winters then “demanded” $5 million for the slides, an amount he halved when the undercover said the original ask was “not feasible.” Winters later sent the agent an e-mail containing his bank routing information.
In subsequent conversations, Winters said that if he was not paid $2.5 million by the undercover, he would “sell certain slides to certain companies to help them with lawsuits and stuff like that.” He added, “If I were to release two slides a week, I could do this for years and years. I mean it would take a lot of money long term to fix, I mean or you could just pay up front and it never happened and it just disappears.”
In an apparent effort to close the sale, Winters sent the undercover agent two text messages last Wednesday. “You have until 4 pm today To let me know if you are going to commit. You are buying time and I don’t like it,” he wrote in one message. Later, he texted, “I can have a press release released as soon as 8 am tomorrow if needed. But I don’t think that will be necessary.”
Last Friday, Winters and another man met the undercover at the Y-12 facility. The men were carrying a “plastic container that contained the slides in question,” according to the complaint. After the agent told Winters that “the money transfer would not happen,” he was arrested for extortion. The criminal complaint, sworn by DOE Agent Paul Gilbride, does not disclose how Winters obtained the 1200 slides, nor does the document offer many specifics about the content of the slides.
When not unwittingly negotiating seven-figure deals with government agents, Winters is as wannabe entrepreneur. This month he launched Shipey, an app to help with the shipping and delivery of items (according to its web site, Shipey has initially rolled out in San Francisco). Previously, Winters founded Green Technology Transport, an eco-friendly firm that used a modified Toyota Prius to truck cargo on a custom built trailer. An April 2012 Jalopnik story about the firm reported that Winters, a certified mechanic, explained the firm’s business plan “in his inviting Southern drawl.”
While his business endeavors have received some press, Winters’s biggest exposure came four months ago, when he appeared on “The Millionaire Matchmaker,” which stages dates for purportedly wealthy men who turn to host Patti Stanger for “help in the love department.” Winters and Stanger are seen in the above screen grab from the February 6 broadcast.
Stanger dubbed Winters the “Beverly Hillbilly,” a millionaire entrepreneur who relocated from Tennessee to Beverly Hills, where he “made a lot of money in green transportation.” Winters, Stanger claimed, was a “country bumpkin” who “made his money in L.A., the big city, but his heart is back in Tennessee.”
On the Valentine’s Day-themed show, Winters was paired with a woman with whom, Stanger claimed, he became “smitten.” But on Winters’s Instagram page, he told friends that he never saw the woman again after the show’s taping (which occurred months before Valentine’s Day). As for Winters’s Beverly Hills residence, he lived in a modest South Crescent Drive building where one bedroom apartments rent for about $1600 monthly. (8 pages)