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NY Private Investigator Accused of Trying to Extort Man Exonerated of Killing Parents

What to Know

  • A private investigator from Nassau County is accused of attempting to extort his client — a man who spent 17 years in prison for the murders of his parents before his conviction was overthrown.
  • Jay Salpeter, 69, of Glen Cove, was arraigned and charged Monday with attempted grand larceny in the second degree by extortion, two counts of attempted grand larceny in the fourth degree by extortion, and two counts of aggravated harassment in the second degree, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced Monday.
  • Salpeter was employed as a private investigator as part of a defense team that secured Martin Tankleff’s exoneration after he was convicted in Suffolk County in 1990 of murdering his parents and sentenced to 50 years to life in prison. The charges were dropped in 2008.

A private investigator from Nassau County is accused of attempting to extort his client — a man who spent 17 years in prison for the murders of his parents before his conviction was overthrown.

Jay Salpeter, 69, of Glen Cove, was arraigned and charged Monday with attempted grand larceny in the second degree by extortion, attempted grand larceny in the fourth degree by extortion, and aggravated harassment in the second degree, Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced Monday.

If convicted on the top charge, Salpeter could face up to seven years in prison. He is due back in court on June 7.

News 4 New York reached out to Salpeter’s attorney for comment.

According to Singas, between Jan. 12, 2018 and March 27, 2021, Salpeter allegedly sent his former client, Martin Tankleff, dozens of emails and voicemails threatening him and attempting to obtain money for services Salpeter believed he was owed.

Salpeter allegedly sent emails threatening to cause physical injuries to Tankleff if he failed to give him money and left voicemails threatening to harm Tankleff’s reputation or expose secrets if he failed to pay.

Salpeter was employed as a private investigator as part of a defense team that secured Tankleff’s exoneration after he was convicted in Suffolk County in 1990 of murdering his parents and sentenced to 50 years to life in prison. The charges were dropped in 2008.

Tankleff’s parents were bludgeoned and stabbed in their waterfront home in 1988 in Belle Terre, on Long Island. Police said he confessed to the crime after a detective falsely told him his father had awakened from a coma and implicated him. Tankleff, who was 17 at the time of his parents’ deaths, quickly recanted and refused to sign a written statement police had prepared.

An appellate court overturned his conviction in 2007. He was awarded a $10 million settlement in 2018 following a federal court lawsuit against Suffolk County.

In 2020 Tankleff was sworn in as a lawyer. Tankleff was admitted to the New York State bar, making him one of a small number of exonerees practicing law in the state, Newsday first reported.

Barry Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project, said Tankleff passed the bar exam in 2017 but faced a long approval process for admittance to the bar. Tankleff graduated from Touro Law Center in Central Islip in 2014. He has taught at both Touro and Georgetown University and worked as a paralegal at a law firm in Manhattan.

Tankleff said he plans to practice criminal and civil rights law and help defendants with wrongful convictions.

“Part of me wants to help educate the legal system to the pitfalls, to prevent wrongful convictions — what things to be wary of and what to look for,” he said.

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