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Friday, April 07, 2006
Gossip Writer Probed in Extortion Plot

NEW YORK (AP) -- A gossip writer for the New York Post has been suspended pending the outcome of a federal investigation into whether he tried to extort money from billionaire financier Ron Burkle, the newspaper said Thursday.

Jared Paul Stern, who worked as a freelancer for the newspaper's Page Six column, is suspected of demanding $100,000 and an annual $10,000 stipend from Burkle in exchange for not writing negative stories about him, the Post said in a story on its Web site.

Stern sometimes worked two days a week at the Post, its editor-in-chief, Col Allen, said in a statement.

"Should the allegations prove true, Mr. Stern's conduct would be morally and journalistically reprehensible, a gross abuse of privilege, and in violation of the New York Post's standards and ethics," Allen said in the statement.

A spokeswoman for the Post, part of News Corp., declined to elaborate on the newspaper's report. FBI spokeswoman Christine Monaco declined to comment.

There was no answer at a telephone number listed for a Jared Paul Stern in New York City; a message left at another number listed under that name in New York state was not immediately returned Thursday night.

Burkle, of California, is one of the world's richest men, with an estimated personal wealth of more than $2 billion.

WTLV


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