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2 tied to escort service accused of extortion

Cheektowaga detectives say they have broken up an escort service that had an unusual twist -- photographing a customer, then trying to extort up to $1,000 in exchange for the photos and a promise not to tell the man's wife.

The investigation led to the arrest of a 23-year-old man and his 22-year-old girlfriend. Police also confiscated some crack cocaine -- and some photos.

Top police officials say they realize there still may be some nervous customers out there who are worried about what happened to the photos.

"Anyone dealing with an escort service is not dealing with a reputable business," Capt. John Glascott said Tuesday. "You're dealing with a criminal element, and you're taking the chance of being ripped off."

Detectives with Cheektowaga's Vice, Gambling and Narcotics Unit began investigating the operation in early summer, after receiving complaints about suspected drug activity in an apartment in the Harlem Road-William Street area.

With the help of patrol officers, detectives said they conducted extensive surveillance at the apartment, where they documented drug activity and an escort service.

They then obtained a search warrant signed by Town Justice Ronald Kmiotek for the apartment, where they arrested John M. Keller Jr., 23, on a charge of misdemeanor possession of crack cocaine. Keller admitted he and his girlfriend were operating an escort service on the property, police said.

Detectives then reportedly learned about the extortion attempts, accusing Keller of demanding up to $1,000 in exchange for the photos and the promise not to tell the customer's wife. Police said they monitored several phone calls in which attempts were made to extort money.

Keller was charged with felony grand larceny, while his girlfriend, Jacqueline L. Reilly, 22, was charged with attempted grand larceny.

Police said the couple's landlord cooperated with the investigation. After Police Chief Christine M. Ziemba's office sent a letter informing the property owner of illegal activity at the apartment, the landlord evicted the couple.

e-mail: gwarner@buffnews.com

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