FDLE agents arrested four South Florida men, including a father and son, charging them with racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, organized scheme to defraud and multiple counts of extortion.
Agents say Bruce Leonard Chait, Shawn David Chait and their co-conspirators, Harris Shapiro, John Colonel and others harassed, threatened and extorted the victim over property acquired after the Chaits defaulted on a loan over a decade ago. The victim’s business has since developed the land for residential housing.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody says, “These defendants, some of whom are convicted felons, attempted to extort millions from a Florida developer—continuously harassing and threatening him into paying. Now, as a result of skillful investigative work by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and my Statewide Prosecutors, their scheme is exposed and they will face justice.”
FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen says, “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. We appreciate the diligence of the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution and the many hours of hard work by our agents and analysts on this case.”
The investigation shows the Chaits, and their co-conspirators continuously threatened and falsely claimed there was dangerous levels of soil contamination on the property. They did this by filing lawsuits using straw plaintiffs as puppets of the Chaits.
Additionally, they sent multiple anonymous letters to county officials including to Broward County Environmental employees with similar fraudulent claims about the property. In recordings, the Chaits admitted that they were behind the lawsuits and that the soil contamination claims were solely for the purpose of getting the victim to pay. The Chaits demanded more than $3 million dollars from the victim to make the lawsuits and harassment “go away.”
FDLE agents yesterday arrested the four suspects on charges ranging from racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, organized scheme to defraud, and six counts of extortion.
Bruce Leonard Chait, 72, Fort Lauderdale, booked into the Broward County Jail.
Shawn David Chait, 47, Boca Raton, booked into the Broward County Jail.
Harris Neil Shapiro, 38, Margate, booked into the Broward County Jail.
John James Colonel, 33, Fort Lauderdale, booked into the Broward County Jail.
Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Office of Statewide Prosecution is prosecuting the case.