RICHMOND, Va. — A Virginia attorney involved in litigation against Monsanto Co. over health risks associated with Roundup weed killer has been charged by federal prosecutors for allegedly trying to extort $200 million from an unnamed company.
Timothy Litzenburg, of Charlottesville, was arrested Tuesday on attempted extortion and interstate threat charges.
Prosecutors allege Litzenburg threatened to “inflict substantial financial and reputational harm” if the company did not meet his demand for a $200 million payment disguised as a consulting fee.
An affidavit filed in court to support a criminal complaint against Litzenburg says he contacted a chemical manufacturing company in September saying he was preparing a lawsuit against the company for its role in making compounds used by St. Louis-based Monsanto to make Roundup, which has been blamed in lawsuits for causing non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other cancers.
The affidavit said Litzenburg told an attorney for the company that he would settle the case for $5 million, but said he also wanted a separate $200 million consulting fee for himself and his associates.
“Litzenburg later described the $200 million ‘demand’ as ’a very reasonable price’ compared to the ‘significant financial consequences to (the company) of a protracted and public ‘Roundup Two,’ ” Postal Inspector Kevin Towers wrote in the affidavit.
Litzenburg, who has been released on bail, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. His attorney, Thomas Bondurant Jr., did not immediately return a call made to his Richmond office Thursday.
Roundup has been blamed for causing cancer in users in thousands of lawsuits against Monsanto’s owner Bayer, which denies such allegations and says the product is safe.
Denise Lavoie, The Associated Press