A homeless man who dressed as Elmo and harassed New York City tourists with anti-Semitic outbursts is now facing prison time for his latest bad act.
On Wednesday, Dan Sandler, better known as the “Evil Elmo,” pleaded guilty to a plot to extort $2 million from Girl Scouts of the USA. According to CBS News, the Elmo imposter had threatened to publicize untrue information about the Girl Scouts, including that the organization had arranged sex with men and its campers, unless he received the funds. Sandler had previously worked as a temp for the Girl Scouts, but lost his job there in 2008.
While Sandler’s latest legal troubles appear the most likely to land him in jail — he faces up to two years in prison — they aren’t his first run-ins with the law. In an detailed profile of Sandler, the New York Times paints a picture of a disturbed man who could not avoid trouble. In the 1990s, Sandler operated a porn site in Cambodia, entitled “Welcome to the Rape Camp,” which purported to show videos of non-consensual sex. The site attracted media attention, and in 1999 he was deported back to the US by Cambodian authorities.
However, after returning to the United States, Sandler once again found himself in the paper for the wrong reasons. After his brief stint with the Girl Scouts, Sandler bought an Elmo costume and took to the NYC streets, where he would take pictures with children in exchange for tips. In the Spring of 2012, he was caught on video by tourists in Central Park as he ranted and raved about an international Jewish conspiracy — all while dressed in his Elmo suit.
Police ejected Sandler from the park, and he was given a psychological evaluation, but a few months later he was back, loudly proclaiming his anti-Semitic theories outside of a Toys-R-Us. Unlike the Central Park encounter, his Times Square outburst resulted in an arrest, and a guilty plea for disorderly conduct.
This time, Sandler’s transgressions will likely land him more than a slap on the wrist. He will be sentenced next month for attempted grand larceny and misdemeanor stalking, and faces a potentially serious prison sentence.
One case for leniency might be Sandler’s mental state. During Sandler’s arraignment hearing, his lawyer, Lawrence Gerzog, attempted to make a case for the release of his client by arguing that Sandler’s crimes were the result of psychiatric problems.
“This case is a case involving, obviously, mental health issues,” said Gerzog.
“He’s Jewish himself.”