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What’s a little blackmail between “friends”

Kindness gets you nowhere sometimes. Particularly where money is involved.

My wife and I were working full time when our first child was born. Childcare, as we all know, is a friggin’ fortune, and it was actually cheaper to have someone in our home rather than send the baby to a daycare. Also, as long as I’ve been a teacher/attorney working with kids, I will do anything I can to avoid my children in that setting. I understand that for some it’s critical, but there are too many issues.

So we interviewed a bunch of people for part-time babysitting. Interestingly, the first question friends asked is why we would trust someone in our home – which makes one realize how non-parents prioritize…

We decided to go with a male nanny (manny) because, quite frankly, of the insane reactions I always got when people found out I was a male teacher. That kind of prejudice has always bothered me at a fundamental level. That and the women who applied were…wow. I hope I never have to do that again. Talk about judgy…

So we made it work – Michele would go in later, I would get home earlier and we had our first and then second child stay at home. With generous maternity leave and work from home policies, a babysitter was an awesome gap filler and we didn’t have to worry about running to and from a day care.

Until 2013 when I was laid off from one job…then fired from the next one 2 months later. And then we didn’t need the Manny.

We felt bad, but he said he would stick around to help. He didn’t have another job, nothing else to do, and he liked the kids and us. I was clear we would try to pay him what we could, but he wouldn’t hear of it.

I started a new law firm and was home all day looking for clients, training, and trying to be productive. Our youngest was beginning pre-school and, that summer of 2014, the manny quit, citing non-payment. It was weird since we were clear we would try to pay for any hours, but really didn’t need him, so…

We moved my wife’s sister up and into the house – she wanted to go to school and work and it was a great stop gap for her to pick up sitting the kids in exchange for rent.

And the Manny reappeared.

I did add money to his pay envelope each week that summer to make up for time he had spent while I was unemployed and had no income. But there was a rift and I talked with my wife about letting him go. She liked him, he was convenient, could cover hours here or there, and her sister was bailing and heading home.

I bit the bullet. He did like the kids and took care of them, so he was able to do his core job duties. In addition, the firm was expanding, so I asked if he would come on board part time with the firm and do some work there. He agreed.

But he was temperamental. You could never predict his mood. And angry at the world. He held onto wrongs done to him years and years ago, repeating the stories over and over. And impatient. And didn’t understand computers. And EVERYTHING was SOMEONE else’s fault so nothing could be corrected.

To top it off, he would “accidentally” show gay porn on his phone, and had texted me on more than one occasion thinking I was a boyfriend or other with requests to shower or other graphic requests. I never thought he meant me directly, but it was not a comfortable situation.

He was also unable to perform basic tasks in the office, and I was finally relegated to having him do very basic things that, if messed up, I could easily fix.

A year later, in 2014, I talked with my wife about letting him go, and again she pointed out how INSANELY expensive after school care was. But with both kids now in school, and me in full control of my schedule, I begged to let him go, as I could take care of the children myself after 3 pm. We began cutting hours down to just when we needed coverage.

It continued to be rocky, particularly after I moved to an office and hired additional staff. It became clear that the Manny was not actually doing anything productive. He would wander in late, check out early, and, for the most part, watch tv or play with his phone. But my wife liked him and he covered hours when we were not available and he was MUCH cheaper than after care, so…I put up with it.

But then we decided at the end of 2016 to move out of CT. I shut down the office, transferred two paralegals and the bulk of my files to another conservator, and moved back to the house. The writing was on the wall.

It wasn’t actually until 2017 when my wife was actively interviewing that I put the manny on notice. We had to support two households and could not afford any employees or overhead. We used the manny sparingly, when needed.

In December of 2017 I sat the manny down, reminded him of the situation and explained that we could no longer afford his services, either in the firm or with the children. We had been up front the entire time, and for most of the year. He knew about the interviews, knew about us packing the house, was well aware of the plans.

Over the next 6 months I was a single parent – and it’s a role I don’t envy. Up before the kids every morning, lunches packed, bags prepped. Get them up, brush hair, brush teeth, drive to school. Clean house, prep to sell, get work done.

The Manny would pop over once a week asking to spend time with the kids. He had been in our lives for 6 years so didn’t have an issue with it. He would take them for ice cream, or the toy store. We found out later that he was talking to them about winning the lottery and taking the kids away from us.

We didn’t find out about that right away. The kids were asking to NOT see him, which was odd, but I agreed and started making excuses. We didn’t find out about the threats until after we were in Maryland, some 6 months later.

It all came to a head on a Friday night in June, just before the closing of the house, and two weeks before we were set to move. I had invited the Manny to an event as I always did and he had responded he would see as he always did. In the past we had invited him on trips, vacations, and other experiences and he had always refused at the last minute. It had become a kind of game to invite him and then see how he would bag out.

I forgot about it, we went to the event, and I posted about it on Facebook. I almost immediately started getting texts from him that were so filled with rage they were almost incomprehensible. All the emotion, anger, resentment, and fear at our leaving came boiling through my phone.

He didn’t stop at the incident. He sent texts excoriating me as a parent, as an attorney, as a human being. It was, quite frankly, disturbing.

Interestingly, we were staying at a friends home for the final few weeks so were not in the house, thankfully.

The texts and emails continued through the summer, demands to see the children, commentary on how I was a worthless human being. Reach outs through facebook and emails to friends and neighbors. We let it go for the most part.

He applied for unemployment, which I did not oppose.

Then he went radio silent and we later found out it was because his mother passed away.

That was significant for several reasons.

First is he was close to his mother. He was her primary caretaker at the end of her life. He owned a three family home, rented out the first floor to cover mortgage and expenses, had his mother on the second and he was in the third floor.

Second, she paid, under medicaid, rent and utilities. So in addition to his income, and the income he made from the firm, and the income he made from sitting, and side jobs he did, he was making a pretty good living.

But when we moved, and then his mother passed, he lost an enormous amount of monthly income.

It was a short time later we got the first Blackmail demand.

It is why I have been careful about blogging, about sharing information, and about posting. Sadly, the continue about once a month, usually accompanied by emails, photographs of “evidence” and other items meant to bully and intimidate us into paying him $60,000. To this day I don’t know what that figure is or represents.

Even sadder, in his communications he admits to everything I wrote above – that I could not pay him during the time I was unemployed, that he worked limited hours, that he stopped in December of 2017. So when threats of legal action didn’t work, he began stalking, including calling my wife at work to say he as in the building of her new job and wouldn’t leave until she went to see him. It turns out he was not, but that’s all the more scarier. The police got involved at that point and we have not heard a word since then.

So there it is…what we’ve been dealing with. I’m happy to get it out in the open and move on. Hopefully. Because, quite frankly, we’ve been nice up until now, but one more threat and I’m bringing the FBI in on it.