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2 charged in connection with teacher blackmail letters

This isn't the kind of reading, writing and arithmetic teachers usually have in mind.

A 39-year-old Eagan man and a 20-year-old Bloomington man were charged Tuesday after reportedly hand delivering blackmail letters to 22 individuals, including several teacher in Independent School District 196.

Eagan resident Eric Leroy Syverson was arrested Saturday. He is being held on $100,000 bail. The Dakota County Attorney's office has also charged Joseph Aaron Schultz of Bloomington.

According to the county attorney's office 22 teachers and coaches at middle and high schools in Rosemount, Apple Valley, Burnsville and Eagan received anonymous letters starting last week in which someone claiming to be a fellow teacher threatened to ruin their career by either making it look like the teacher was in possession of adult or child pornography or by having students come forward with claims the teacher had made improper sexual advances of offered money for naked photos of students.

County attorney James Backstrom said none of the claims threatened in the letter had any basis in reality.

Reports of the letters started showing up at school employees' homes the middle of last week in District 196, said Tony Taschner, the district's communication specialist. Taschner said he heard about 15 ISD 196 employees received letters, including some Rosemount High School employees.

The letter told the teachers to put $1,000 in $100 bills in a Ziploc plastic bag and leave them at a specific location in a Dakota County park.

Several teachers also reported receiving a suspicious phone call between April 12 and April 15. Once the caller determined he had the right address he hung up.

Several of the teachers who received calls got the phone number of the caller. That number led police to Syverson.

On April 19 police watched Syverson as he drove to four parks identified as drop-off points.

Syverson reportedly admitted to police he had attempted to blackmail the teachers but said he was being blackmailed himself. He had a list of about 50 teachers and planned to continue with his letters until he had recovered the $23,000 he needed to pay off the person blackmailing him.

Schultz reportedly drove Syverson around while he delivered his letters. He told police he continued to drive even after he learned what Syverson was doing.

Syverson made his first court appearance Tuesday. Bail was set at $60,000 without conditions and $40,000 with conditions. His next court appearance is scheduled for May 5.

Schultz had bail set at $30,000 without conditions and $20,000 with conditions. He is also scheduled to appear in court May 5.