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A 60-year-old man has been charged with hacking and attempting extortion on Monday over an alleged attack on the customer database of luxury car firm Maserati.

Bruce Mengler, of Solana Beach, near San Diego, stands accused of lifting a database of customers who took trial drives of Maserati motors after hacking into the car firm's network back in March.

He allegedly threatened to spill the beans on the breach unless Maserati paid up.

The threatening emails included the contact details and personal information of four San Diego-area residents who took part in a promotion, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

In exchange for test driving Maserati cars customers were offered gift certificates exchangeable for a meal at Omaha Steaks.

The threats were reportedly made via a Gmail account traced back to Mengler, who was released on bail after police questioned him about the attack.

The case is next due back in court on 31 October. ®

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