Longform

Deadly Charades: Double Lives, Extortion and the Suicide of a Respected Professor

At 10:29 a.m. on January 8, Texas A&M Communications Professor Jim Aune stood on the roof of a campus parking garage and texted the man who had been extorting him for weeks. It was the last thing he would ever do.

"Killing myself now And u will be prosecuted for black mail," Aune said, according to federal court records. Then Aune stepped off the roof and fell six stories, landing on his back. The fall didn't immediately kill him; he died at a hospital later that day.

Aune, a 59-year-old married father of two, believed he had texted the father of a 16-year-old girl he'd been chatting with online after first meeting her on Gay.com. Aune never actually met or spoke on the phone with the girl who called herself Karen McCall. There was no way he could have, because she didn't exist.

Federal authorities say that both "Karen McCall" and her father were actually a 38-year-old New Orleans-area man named Daniel Timothy Duplaisir, a self-employed house painter with a habit of extorting men who liked to carry on sexually explicit online relationships with underage girls.

According to authorities, the scam worked like this: Once the mark got in deep enough — by, say, sending a picture of his penis, as Aune did — Duplaisir would play the role of the outraged father who had just discovered the online affair. Duplaisir would then demand money, ostensibly to cover therapy for the traumatized teen, in lieu of calling the police. Duplaisir allegedly demanded $5,000 from Aune.

Duplaisir did not believe Aune's suicide text, according to records of their texts that day.

In the first 23 minutes after Aune hit the sidewalk, Duplaisir allegedly texted multiple times, saying, "Never black mailed you I gave you a chance to make it right. You lied to me too many times. Answer the phone punk."

After not hearing from Aune, a frustrated Duplaisir allegedly left a series of increasingly bitter, threatening voice mails, including this one:

"Let me tell you, motherfucker...you sick old bastard...I told you I was going to call the cops. You begged me not to fucking do it...You started this shit, motherfucker; don't try and turn it around and make it look like I fucking blackmailed you, stupid son of a bitch..."

Four days later, Duplaisir posted a comment on one of his Facebook pages: "damn I need a new line of work sometimes."

This particular page bore the name "Danielle Mosvoni" and featured a profile picture of Duplaisir in a sheer blouse with a plunging neckline. In other pics, Duplaisir has unbottoned the blouse, revealing a burgundy bra supporting ample breasts. His lips are painted with pink gloss, and his ears are adorned with half-dollar-size earrings; red hair curls up just above his shoulders. He's smiling.

According to Aune's widow, Miriam, Aune had met Duplaisir as Mosvoni on Gay.com months earlier; after Duplaisir extracted enough information from Aune, he allegedly contacted Aune as Karen. Once Aune was hooked, Duplaisir moved the conversations to a social networking site called Mocospace.com. (It's unclear why Aune would have even been interested in an underage girl in the first place, when, according to Miriam, he was only interested in corresponding with transgender men. It's also unclear why a teenage girl would have been on a social networking site for gay males. Court records do not explain precisely how Aune met "Karen," and officials have declined to comment. Furthermore, authorities have not disclosed what photographs Duplaisir used for the Karen persona.)

When a Bryan FBI agent and an A&M detective traced the texts and e-mails to Duplaisir, and he appeared in court on extortion charges in March, he no longer looked like Danielle Mosvoni. But that's how he signed a letter to U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Hughes on May 13.

"I have begged for help for years, but you all have ignored me every time," he wrote. "Stop ignoring me. It's unfair to society to ignore my problems, and when I get out, I'm the same or worse. My brain is broken."

It appears that both Duplaisir and Aune were living double lives, and when they found each other, it was just a matter of time before they'd wreck each other's life.
_____________________

On Halloween Day in 2012, Duplaisir walked into a Lowe's in Metairie, Louisiana, and charged $114.04 to a Green Dot prepaid debit card.

Special Agent Nikki Allen, with the Bryan office of the FBI, and Donnie Ohana, a detective with the A&M Police Department, traced a payment made to Duplaisir's card by Aune the following year, according to Allen's affidavit. (An FBI spokesperson declined to comment for this story, referring the Houston Press to federal prosecutors, who do not comment on pending cases.)

Aune's phone was in his pocket, undamaged, when he hit the ground. Before investigators even spoke with his wife, they were able to check his recent texts, and they also found a printout of e-mails between Aune and Karen in Aune's office. In one of the e-mails, Aune explained that he had heard from her father and had to cut off contact.

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Contributor Craig Malisow covers crooks, quacks, animal abusers, elected officials, and other assorted people for the Houston Press.
Contact: Craig Malisow