German woman charged in Los Angeles with trying to extort Saudi sheikh

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - A German woman who falsely claimed she was raped and tortured by the son of a Saudi sheikh in Los Angeles has been charged with trying to extort at least US$15 million (S$18.6 million) from one of Saudi Arabia's wealthiest men, prosecutors said.

Leyla Ors, 33, faces up to four years in prison if convicted on charges of attempted extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion, conspiracy to obstruct justice and one count of offering to receive a bribe, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

The same charges were filed against two lawyers - Joseph Cavallo and Emanuel Hudson - who are accused of taking part in the extortion plot.

All three were arrested on Thursday by Los Angeles police, the district attorney's office said in a statement.

The case stems from a false complaint Ors lodged in March saying she had been sexually assaulted and tortured by Thamer Albalwi, 23, whose father, Sheikh Monsur Albalwi, is one of the richest men in Saudi Arabia, the district attorney's office said.

The son was charged on March 13 with four counts of sexual assault, based on Ors' allegations, a physical exam and visible evidence of her purported injuries, prosecutors said.

But her story later proved to have been a fraud, and the case against the son was dismissed on Friday, according to Ms Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the district attorney. "The whole thing was completely fabricated," Ms Robison said.

As part of the extortion plot, prosecutors said in their criminal complaint, the lawyers called the sheikh in June telling him Ors would decline to press charges against his son in exchange for US$15 million.

The demand was then raised to US$20 million, and the sheikh was told that a Swiss bank account would be set up to receive the payment, the complaint said.

Ors, who remains in custody, was scheduled to be arraigned on Monday, and prosecutors said they would ask that her bail be set at US$35,000.

Cavallo and Hudson were released on bond after their arrests but face arraignment on Tuesday and July 31, respectively.

Ms Robison declined to provide additional background about Ors other than to say she was a German national.

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