KNOXVILLE — An Oneida High School graduate and Scott County native has been charged with attempting to extort $5 million from federal officials, including vice president Joe Biden.
Adam Winters, 25, of Oneida, was taken into custody — and later released on bail — on May 23, the day a 7-page criminal complaint naming him in an alleged attempt to extort money from the federal government was filed in U.S. District Court in Knoxville.
According to an affidavit filed by an undercover agent for the Department of Energy, Winters claimed to have 1,200 slides documenting evidence that would prove damaging to the Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge, and asked for $5 million to turn the slides over to federal authorities.
Winters appeared on Bravo TV's "Millionaire Matchmaker" reality show earlier this year, claiming to be worth in excess of $1 million.
In court, however, Winters filed documents stating that he could not afford an attorney. The court agreed, appointing Knoxville criminal defense attorney Paula R. Voss to represent him.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled before Magistrate C. Clifford Shirley on June 6.
In a May 8 email to Y-12's public affairs office, the Knoxville office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the vice president's office, Winters claimed to have 1,200 slides dating from the 1940s through the 1980s.
"I have evidence from testing the bombs, to documentation on how much radiation was used on animals and contamination of the plants," Winters wrote.
Winters cited a successful lawsuit by a resident near Watts Bar Lake.
"I figure there is enough documentation that shows enough evidence where this could win tons and tons of lawsuits if they were to get out," Winters wrote in the alleged email.
Winters gave the recipients of the email a 48-hour ultimatum, threatening to auction the slides.
The following day, DOE investigators — posing undercover — made contact with Winters, who claimed that the FBI had attempted to purchase the slides from him in 2000.
In that initial telephone conversation, Winters again cited the Watts Bar case, which was settled out of court for nearly $8 million, and allegedly told undercover investigators that dollar amount was "nowhere near what I would want for (the slides)."
On May 20, Winters met the undercover agent in person at Y-12 and demanded $5 million for the slides. When the agent advised that $5 million wasn't feasible, Winters allegedly lowered his demand to $2.5 million.
Later that day, he forwarded his bank account information to agents, still believing he was dealing with public affairs officials from Y-12.
"If I were to release two slides a week, I could do this for years and years," Winters allegedly told investigators in a phone conversation the following day. "I mean, it would take a lot of money long term to fix. I mean, or you could just pay up front and it never happened and it just disappears."
In a text message that same day, Winters allegedly gave the undercover agent a 4 p.m. ultimatum to commit to purchasing the slides, saying that he would arrange a press release for 8 a.m. the following morning if Y-12 did not comply.
Allegedly, Winters also demanded a letter from Y-12 stating that his acts were "non-incriminating."
The following day, Winters and another Oneida man met the undercover agent at Y-12, accompanied by a plastic container that contained the slides, according to the affidavit. At that point, Winters was taken into arrest.
An aspiring entrepreneur, Winters was involved in several business ventures after graduating from Oneida High School in 2007. He wound up in California, where he founded a eco-friendly transport company, Green Technology Transport, which later merged with Shipey — another business venture of Winters'. The company used a Prius with a modified cargo trailer to move shipments. This month, Winters released the Shipey app, a consumer shipping tool, for iPhone and Android devices.
Winters, whose driver license still listed him as a Beverly Hills residence, recently contacted the Independent Herald about a potential story on a new business venture he was involved with in Oneida.
This month's incident is not the first time the Y-12 slides have emerged. The slides were inadvertently left in an old storage cabinet from Y-12 that was purchased by members of Winters' family at a surplus auction in Oak Ridge in the late 1980s.
In 1993, members of Winters' family approached several media outlets in the greater Knoxville area — including the Independent Herald — about the slides. At that time, the DOE refused to pay for the return of the slides.