LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said Friday that she is "deeply concerned" that a former campaign worker allegedly tried to use his political ties to extort the owner of a car rental company that drew scrutiny from her office.
Nessel's spokeswoman issued a lengthy statement in response to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Detroit federal court against Dimitriy Movsesyan, who worked on her campaign as an IT consultant.
He is accused by Executive Car Rental and its founder, Maher Waad, of demanding $9,500, enlisting Ukrainian backers to take over some of the company's internet accounts and suggesting he could influence Nessel's probe of consumer complaints.
"We are deeply concerned that Movsesyan apparently tried to use his brief encounters with AG Nessel to persuade Executive Car Rental (ECR) that he could have any impact on the Department's investigation of the company," said Nessel spokeswoman Kelli Rossman-McKinney.
The spokeswoman added that Nessel, a Democrat, has not seen Movsesyan since she was elected last year, nor has she talked with him about "any matter" the department is handling.
The suit alleges Movsesyan began sending text messages to Waad in February, about two weeks after Nessel publicly announced her intention to take action against ECR due to complaints about un-refunded deposits and other issues. In later texts, Movsesyan — seeking work — said he could "help," showed a photo of himself with Nessel and noted he planned to meet with her.
"The entire thing is a fabrication," Movsesyan said to The Associated Press on Friday, adding that he would respond further on Monday.
Executive Car Rental, which operates in Michigan and Florida, entered into a settlement with the attorney general's office in March. But in June, the office notified the company that additional consumer complaints had come to light.
In July, Movsesyan sent an email to an assistant attorney general, saying he was now Executive Car Rental's chief marketing officer and was hoping to resolve outstanding complaints, according to the suit. The complaint said Movsesyan was never employed by the company nor authorized to make such statements on its behalf.
He allegedly texted Waad in July to say he had spoken to Nessel and, as long as Movsesyan was involved, she was "confident" the company would "become a leader in the industry." The suit alleges that Movsesyan or his "paid Ukrainian network" hijacked the company's Google domains and gave disparaging responses to consumer complaints immediately after Waad severed ties with him.
Movsesyan boasted on numerous occasions that the hackers had "manipulated" email accounts to help Nessel during the 2018 election, according to the suit.
Waad paid Movsesyan more than $3,000 "under duress and threat of continued economic harm to the company," the suit says. Movsesyan had demanded a $9,500 payment he believed he was owed.
Rossman-McKinney encouraged Executive Car Rental to file a report with law enforcement if it believes it was the victim of a crime.
Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Laura Cox called for an "immediate investigation of these extremely serious allegations of fraud and corruption."
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