Staff reports

A Rocky Hill man set up an elaborate extortion scheme, fronted by a phony talent agency, to solicit revealing photos, money and sex from nearly 40 women seeking modeling jobs that did not exist, Fairfield police said Friday.

Anand Amin, 24, of Catherine Street in Rocky Hill, tried to back up his extortion threats by telling the women that unless they paid him and agreed to sexual favors he would make public the nude or semi-nude photos they submitted with applications for the non-existent modeling jobs his "agency," Gucci Modeling Co., was offering, according to the warrant for his arrest.

Amin succeeded in duping at least two of the targeted women into sending nude or semi-nude photos of themselves by posing as a female agent for the fictitious Gucci Modeling agency, police said Friday, and convinced at least one of them to perform oral sex on him in an attempt to reclaim her photos.

When confronted by police during a search of his home last August, Amin admitted to creating the phony email accounts for the modeling scam, through which he requested photos, money and sexual favors. At the end of his sworn statement, Amin said, "I would like to apologize and did not mean to hurt anyone. I was stupid to do this and am willing to make restitution."

According to the arrest warrant, Amin -- who attended Sacred Heart University for a short period before leaving the Fairfield school in 2009 -- set up fake emails accounts posing as both a recruiter and "shoot manager" for the fictitious modeling agency, and contacted a fellow SHU student. Initially, she ignored the emails promoting a modeling career until hearing from Amin, whom she knew, that the venture was supposedly legitimate.

After persuading the victim to send nude photos of herself for a prospective modeling assignment, Amin -- posing via email as the recruiter, "Lauren Aiello" -- informed the student of a "hazing phase" on the job, which included "engaging in sexual favors for a person of the Gucci Modeling Company's choosing." The person chosen, according to Aiello the email, would be Amin because he was mutual friend.

The victim had already paid $300 to Amin, a portion of the $1,000 fee she was told was needed to secure a modeling contract. But when she told the "agency" that she was not interested in performing any sexual favors and wanted her money back, "Lauren Aeillo" said via email that if she did not complete the "hazing," she would have to pay another $800 in cash and the photos she had sent would be posted on an Internet site as well as sent to her parents, according to the warrant.

The student once again met Amin on campus, and paid him the $800, afraid that the pictures would posted online. She told police she then heard from the agency's "shoot manager," identified as "Janette Riggins" in an email, that she would have to make several deposits into Amin's personal bank account because the other models "would be upset she did not complete her `hazing phase,' " the warrant states.

In September 2012, the student began to get harassing emails via Amin's personal email telling her the modeling agency froze his bank account because she didn't complete the hazing, according to the warrant. Amin continued to harass her, demanding that she comply. He also said he had copies of her nude photos and would post them online, police said.

At that point, the warrant states, the student agreed to perform oral sex on Amin at her home, an act that Amin videotaped using his cell phone. He said it would be sent to the modeling agency as proof that she had finally complied, and her photos would be deleted. He also promised that all her money would be reimbursed by the agency after it received the video.

When the student failed to receive any reimbursement, she sent an email to "Aiello" last April 4 to directly ask for her money back. The email sent in response refused her request, with the rationale that if the other model candidates learned that the student had been reimbursed, they would be unhappy. The email stated, "For all 6 of them (girls) $300 would shut them up and I'd get them to sign the document also, but other than that, we won't have a deal that makes both us and Anand's lawyer happy."

The victim sent another email, asking about an agreement in writing. According to the warrant, the emailed response she got said, "I can not help it if someone knows of the Hazing and talks to people. I can get rid of them and this will be the last problem." She was instructed to deposit $300 into the bank account of "Gina Menard," supposedly the lawyer representing Amin.

In all, police said, the student transferred $1,690 from her account to Amin's between July 11, 2011, and July 9, 2012.

Last July, she received another email from Amin, claiming he went to a job interview but was turned down because a background and credit check showed his bank account had been "red flagged for money laundering" because of a large amount of deposits. He blamed her for some of those problems and threatened to get his lawyer involved. In one email, the warrant states, Amin wrote, "You will make this up to me, not financially, I don't care about money, I have spent enough."

After the victim filed complaint with Fairfield police, detectives contacted Rocky Hill police last Aug. 20, and learned they had began investigating Amin for an incident in March 2011. That case also involved the non-existent "Lauren Aeillo," who had dealings with a aspiring Rocky Hill model who told police she was asked to take naked pictures of herself and have sex with Amin. When she refused to have sex with Amin, the warrant states, she received an email from Aiello threatening to post the photos online.

Police said their investigation also uncovered similar email correspondence between Amin and at least 39 other women. When contacted by detectives, several of the women confirmed they had been exploited by Amin, but were either out of state or hesitant to cooperate because of the consequences they feared it would have on their personal lives.

Interviewed in 2011 by Rocky Hill police, Amin said Lauren Aiello was a fellow student at Sacred Heart and a model. He claimed he was not involved in that scam, and agreed to get a phone number for Aeillo. Amin provided a phone number for a woman who said she was Aiello's mother. She told police her daughter's Facebook account had been hacked and taken over by someone claiming to be a model. She said her daughter's bank account information and Social Security number also were used by someone for use on a gambling website.

Police said they learned the false number provided to the gambling website was Amin's. He, however, continued to deny any involvement, claiming to be a victim of identity theft. Rocky Hill police did not arrest him at the time.

Officials hope that other victims of the extortion scheme will contact police. "Oftentimes, victims don't come forward, thinking they're the only one and feel empowered after others have come forward," police Sgt. Suzanne Lussier said.

According to Lussier, Amin had been arrested in 2010 on Sacred Heart property for criminal trespass. He pleaded guilty and paid a $50 fine. Details on that arrest were not immediately available.

Amin was held in lieu of $100,000 bond, police said Friday, and is scheduled to appear Jan. 30 in Bridgeport Superior Court.

Any victims of Amin's extortion scheme, police said, who have not already been contacted by detectives may contact the Detective Bureau at 203-254-4840.