Attorney: Jennifer Lopez is victim of extortion

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Jennifer Lopez in lawsuit

Jennifer Lopez in lawsuit (AP photo)

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Jennifer Lopez was the victim of extortion by a man she hired to provide driving and protection services for the singer-actress, her attorney told a judge today in arguing against dismissal of her countersuit against the former employee.

Lopez lawyer Alex Weingarten told Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joseph Kalin that he was advised during an October 2011 telephone by Hakob Manoukian’s former attorney, Sana Swe, that Lopez’s former driver wanted to be paid to keep silent.

“My client has dirt on your client and if you don’t pay him he is going to go public,” Swe said, according to Weingarten. “That is extortion.”

However, attorney Justin Kachadoorian, who currently represents Manoukian, urged Kalin to toss the 43-year-old “Selena” star’s case on grounds it was filed to punish him for filing an employment lawsuit against her.

He said Lopez is trying to hold Manoukian liable for protected communications between his former lawyer and her attorney conducted in anticipation of litigation.

“This case was filed to intimidate my client into dismissing his legitimate claims,” Kachadoorian said.

After hearing arguments, Kalin took the case under submission and said he would rule by the middle of next week.

Lopez’s allegations against Hakob Manoukian include extortion, attempted extortion, interference with contractual relations and civil conspiracy. She wants at least $20 million in damages and an injunction stopping him from harassing her or extorting money from her.

Manoukian, who was present for today’s hearing, filed a breach-of- contract suit on April 30 against Lopez and her manager, Benny Medina, alleging deceit, failure to pay overtime and wrongful termination.

According to Manoukian, he began driving for Lopez and her estranged husband, Marc Anthony, in 2005.

Manoukian’s court papers say Lopez and Anthony both liked him so much that in August 2011, they persuaded him to give up his own business, La Vie Transportation, to provide driving and security services for them, according to his court papers.

Manoukian maintains he was never provided with all of the bonus pay he was promised when Lopez was filming or involved in other engagements, which would have earned him about $200,000 annually.

The 41-year-old Manoukian alleges he regularly worked more than 40 hours a week and did not receive overtime. He also claims Medina interfered with his production pay bonuses.

He says he was eventually demoted and that Lopez’s managers terminated his contract with her.

Anthony is not named in the suit.

According to Lopez’s countersuit, Manoukian became angry when, during production of a music video, Medina recommended that Lopez and the production staff employ a security team they worked with before rather than one preferred by the plaintiff.

After that, Manoukian plotted to retaliate against Lopez and her management and to use his position to “exploit and extort substantial sums from Ms. Lopez,” her court papers allege.

Weingarten told Kalin that Swe also said Manoukian told her he had enough information to send Lopez to prison for tax fraud. Weingarten said the actress has never engaged in any tax-related crimes.

Kachadoorian denied, however, that there was any effort by Manoukian to ruin Lopez or commit extortion against the actress.

In a separate ruling, Kalin said he was inclined to dismiss Medina from the Manoukian suit. The plaintiff alleges Lopez’s talent manager interfered in the contract he had with Lopez and her company, Nuyorican Productions Inc., by demoting him.

However, Medina’s lawyer, Jeremiah Reynolds, maintained Medina was acting within the authority given him by Lopez.

Kalin also took Medina’s part of the case under submission.

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