Man Held in Plot to Kidnap, Ransom Texas Billionaire : Investigation: A Tennessee man allegedly planned to kidnap Robert M. Bass and hold him for $5 million.
A man was held Thursday on racketeering and extortion charges for an alleged plot to kidnap Texas billionaire Robert M. Bass and hold him for $5-million ransom, authorities reported.
Austin James Veleff, 57, of Germantown, Tenn., was arrested by FBI agents on Wednesday after he had driven to Texas with an undercover agent he thought was going to help him.
The arrest came after Veleff took pictures of City Place, a 33-story office complex built by the Bass family, where Robert Bass has his office.
Carroll Andre, an assistant U.S. attorney in Memphis, Tenn., said Veleff had never met Bass and had no connection with him. He had made Bass the target of a kidnaping after reading about him in a business magazine, Andre said.
Federal authorities had been aware of the alleged plot since May. But Andre said Veleff told the undercover agent he had been planning to abduct Bass for seven years.
Dee Kelly, a lawyer for the Bass family, declined to comment.
FBI agent William Fallin of Memphis, the agent in charge of the investigation, said Veleff planned to ask for $5-million ransom after taking Bass to south Texas.
Veleff, an advertising salesman for the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper for about 20 years, had operated a swimming pool business for about eight years before becoming unemployed.
If convicted, Veleff could face a maximum prison term of five years and a fine of up to $250,000.
Andre said that in addition to the $5-million ransom, Veleff talked about filming Bass “in distressing situations” and seeking an additional $20 million after the initial ransom had been delivered by plane to a mountain in Mexico.