Four men from South Florida were arrested and charged after allegedly attempting to extort millions of dollars from victims over property lost by two of the defendants over a decade ago.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials charged 72-year-old Bruce Chait of Fort Lauderdale and his 47-year-old son, Shawn from Boca Raton, with multiple counts of extortion and fraud, the agency announced Thursday.
FDLE agents also arrested 38-year-old Harris Shapiro of Margate and 33-year-old John Colonel of Fort Lauderdale, charging each with one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering.
According to the agency, the four men threatened and falsely claimed dangerous levels of soil contamination were at a property the Chaits at defaulted on years before that had since become residential housing.
Letters were also sent to Broward County officials with similar claims while the Chaits later admitted to being behind them as well as a lawsuit, demanding more than $3 million to make the case “go away” according to the FDLE.
“These criminals were on a path to destroy the victim’s reputation as well as his business by spreading lies about the land and the victim’s development,” said FDLE commissioner Rick Swearingen.
Both members of the Chaits family remain behind bars on $10.5 million bond while Shapiro also remains behind bars on a $1 million bond. Colonel has since bailed out.