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Man charged in Letterman kidnap plot

 (The Spokesman-Review)
Frank (The Spokesman-Review)
John MacDonald Associated Press

HELENA – Authorities charged a man Thursday in what they say was a plot to kidnap David Letterman’s young son and nanny from the talk-show host’s ranch on Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front.

Kelly A. Frank, 43, was being held on a felony charge of solicitation, authorities said.

Sally Hilander, a spokeswoman for the Montana Department of Corrections, said the plot was uncovered when someone whom Frank had approached about the plan informed local police.

Steven Rubenstein, a spokesman for Letterman’s production company World Wide Pants, said he could not immediately comment or say whether Letterman or his family was in Montana at the time of Frank’s arrest.

In a statement, Letterman said the family “would like to express our endless gratitude to the FBI and law enforcement professionals from Teton County and surrounding areas of Montana. We will be forever grateful for their tireless efforts and determination to vigorously pursue this situation.”

Mike Ferriter of the state Department of Corrections said Frank had been working as a painter at Letterman’s ranch west of Choteau in north-central Montana and apparently confided in an acquaintance earlier this month of his plan to kidnap Letterman’s son and nanny and hold them for $5 million ransom.

“An individual was approached by Mr. Frank, an acquaintance of some kind, about his thought on the kidnapping, and (Frank) shared his idea with this individual,” Ferriter said. “I’m not sure if he asked him to assist or be a part of it.”

According to the affidavit filed by Teton County Attorney Joe Coble, Frank had talked in detail with the acquaintance about his kidnapping plan. He told the man that he knew Letterman and his family would be visiting their Montana home soon, and that Frank had a key to the house, knew where the baby slept and intended to kidnap the nanny “so that she could take care of the child.”

The acquaintance contacted authorities on Sunday, according to the affidavit. Sheriff George Anderson told the weekly Choteau Acantha newspaper that Frank was arrested the following morning at another area ranch where he was working. Anderson did not return phone calls to The Associated Press seeking comment.

In addition to the solicitation charge, Frank also is charged with felony theft for allegedly overcharging Letterman for painting, and a misdemeanor charge of obstruction for lying to an investigator who first contacted him about the alleged plot.

Frank is being held at a jail in neighboring Pondera County with bail set at $600,000. It was not immediately clear whether Frank had an attorney. The Acantha said he did not have a lawyer present when he appeared in court Thursday.

Letterman’s girlfriend, Regina Lasko, gave birth to their son on Nov. 3, 2003. Letterman said that the boy, his first child, was named after his late father, Harry Joseph Letterman.

The comedian who hosts CBS’ “Late Show” bought the 2,700-acre spread in 1999.

Letterman’s ranch is along the edge of the rugged Rocky Mountain Front, an area known for its pristine wildlife habitat. It is home to elk, wolves, eagles and grizzly bears. In September 2003, a black bear broke into Letterman’s home twice before being captured and relocated.

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