The CBS News employee who has been indicted in an $2 million extortion plot could have had money woes related to child support payments.
According to court documents, Robert “Joe” Halderman was first required to pay $6,800 a month in child and spousal support in 2004 for his wife and two kids. In 2007 the amount was reduced to $5,966.66, which still adds up to a whopping $71,000 a year.
The divorce agreement also stipulates that the court would have the power to order Halderman to pay for his children’s college education -- and one has just turned 18, the other is 11.
Halderman, an Emmy-award producer for the true-crime show "48 Hours," and other CBS documentaries was arrested Thursday and indicted on one count of attempted first-degree grand larceny, punishable by five to 15 years upon conviction, District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said.
Divorce court papers indicated that Halderman, who has been with CBS News for about 30 years, was making $214,000 in 2004, and had a four-year contract stipulating a 3-percent increase for the next three years.
At the time, Halderman was worth $744,705 and had $16,438 in credit card debt.
In July 2007 a divorce court document said that Halderman's girlfriend was paying him $1,500 rent, but he was still struggling financially. Asked during a hearing where his money had gone, Halderman responded, "I don't know. My life costs money."
Prosecutors declined to say whether Halderman had financial problems or other motives.
He was due to be arraigned later Friday. His lawyer, Gerald Shargel, didn't immediately return a telephone call Friday.
Halderman, who lives in Norwalk, CT, and a warrant executed on his house, may have come up with the plan after a woman that he dated told him that she had once had an affair with Letterman.
The district attorney's office said Halderman left a letter and other material for Letterman early Sept. 9. He wrote that he needed "to make a large chunk of money" by selling Letterman a screenplay treatment -- an entertainment-business term for a synopsis used to pitch a screenplay.
The supposed treatment said Letterman's world would "collapse around him" when information about his private life was disclosed, leading to "a ruined reputation" and damaging his professional and family life, prosecutors said. The also mentioned Letterman's "beautiful and loving son," prosecutors said.
It wasn't clear whether the reference was meant as a threat to harm the boy. Letterman was the victim of a 2005 plot by a former painter at his Montana ranch to kidnap his nanny and son for a ransom.
After receiving the materials, Letterman immediately contacted his lawyer, who arranged a meeting with Halderman. At the meeting, Halderman demanded $2 million to keep the material secret, the district attorney's office said. After the meeting, Letterman and his lawyer contacted the DA's office and the investigation began.
A law enforcement official said that the district attorney's office set up the undercover sting operation at the swank Jumeirah Essex House hotel in Manhattan.
Police detectives were in an adjoining room with recording equipment and surveillance as Letterman's attorney met with Halderman and discussed terms of the extortion, the official said.
"At one point he told the attorney that he didn't want to have to work for the rest of his life, and the number he came up with was $2 million," the law enforcement official said.
The check was delivered during a Sept. 30th meet up, the DA said. Then Halderman then tried to cash the phony check, which was made to bounce, in his bank account in Connecticut. He was arrested soon afterward.