A Los Angeles man is accused of threatening to kill former Real Housewives of Orange County star Elizabeth Vargas after extorting tens of thousands of dollars from her in exchange for not leaking nude photos, authorities said Thursday.
Ryan Matthew Geraghty, 33, has been charged with six felony counts including extortion by force or threat, assault with a firearm, making criminal threats, corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant, grossly negligent discharge of a firearm, and being a felon in possession of a firearm, according to the Orange County district attorney’s office.
He also faces two misdemeanor counts of possession of a controlled substance, which prohibits a judge from offering him probation due to his violent record, officials said.
Geraghty was arrested by Newport Beach police Tuesday after a roughly two-hour standoff at the home of a woman with whom he had a romantic relationship. Authorities did not name the woman in the criminal complaint, but her identity was confirmed as “Real Housewives” cast member Elizabeth Lyn Vargas by her manager, David Weintraub, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Police responded to a call for a welfare check call about 2 p.m. at the home in the 100 block of Medina Way on the Balboa Peninsula, The Times reports. When officers arrived, they “observed an emergency situation that warranted the immediate evacuation of the victim from the residence,” police said.
SWAT teams were requested, and East Balboa Boulevard between Island Avenue and Coronado Street was closed during the standoff. Officers entered the home hours later where they encountered Geraghty who was “actively threatening the life” of Vargas and quickly arrested him, police said.
Vargas’ manager, David Weintraub, issued a statement to City News Service on Wednesday, saying Vargas is “doing great now.”
“She wants to thank the Newport Beach Police Department and SWAT teams for saving her from harm’s way,” he added. “This was a traumatic experience for her and she feels blessed that she survived.”
Prosecutors say Geraghty’s alleged extortion began on Christmas Eve, when authorities believe he started taking money from Vargas in exchange for not selling nude images of her to the media. After Vargas said she wouldn’t give him any more money, Geraghty punched her in the face, officials said. And when she attempted to “cut him off again, he pointed a gun at her and threatened to kill her.”
At some point, Geraghty allegedly forced her to buy him a BMV.
On Jan. 31, Geraghty fired a gun into the ceiling of Vargas’ home during an argument while she hid in the closet, prosecutors said.
The next day, Geraghty told Vargas that he was “coming for her because she stole his car,” authorities said. He allegedly went to her house with a gun and pointed it in her face, threatening to kill her.
Police arrested Geraghty when they heard a struggle over the phone while they were attempting to contact Vargas.
Geraghty, who is considered a “three-striker” by authorities, has a lengthy criminal history, court records show. In 2008, he pleaded guilty to burglary and was sentenced to 180 days in Los Angeles County jail and three years of probation, The Times reports.
In 2016, he pleaded no contest to being a felon in possession of a firearm and was sentenced to eight years in state prison. And in 2020, he pleaded no contest to being in possession of ammunition and no contest to possession of a controlled substance with the intent to sell. Geraghty was sentenced to a state prison term, 18 days in Los Angeles County jail and three years of formal probation, The Times reports.
“There are some members of our society who are so violent that they cannot live among the rest of us,” Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer said in a statement. “California’s Three Strikes Law was designed to protect law-abiding residents from being subjected to a never-ending campaign of violence by individuals who have no respect for the law and no respect for human life.”
If convicted on all charges in the alleged extortion case, Geraghty a maximum sentence of 75 years and four months to life.
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