Tamarac City Manager Michael Cernech was arrested and charged in connection with his alleged role in attempting to extort $3.4 million from a Florida developer, prosecutors said Friday.
Cernech faces a charge of conspiracy to commit racketeering and is accused of being a co-conspirator to father-and-son duo Bruce and Shawn Chait in the extortion scheme against 13th Floor Investments, doing business as SPL Holdings.
"The defendant conspired with convicted felons, using his position of authority to relay false information to the highest levels of city government to further this multimillion-dollar extortion scheme — disgraceful," Attorney General Ashley Moody said in a news release.
Cernech — along with other alleged co-conspirators — is accused of harassing, extorting and threatening the victim over property acquired after the Chaits defaulted on a loan more than a decade ago. The victim’s business has since developed the land for residential housing.
Prosecutors said Cernech helped the Chaits in pressuring the victim into paying $3.4 million by leaking false information to both the Tamarac Mayor and attorneys representing 13th Floor Investments.
“The victim in this case was constantly harassed and his business and livelihood threatened by the Chaits and their accomplice Michael Cernech. Their actions were both frightening and appalling. I appreciate the dedication of our FDLE agents in Miami and the Office of Statewide Prosecution in unraveling this brazen fraud," Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen said.
Click here for the full news release from Moody's office.
Cernech’s bond is set at $200,000 in addition to a level two pre-trial release.