A Florida firefighter is in jail, charged with extortion and related offenses following his threat to release the contents of an illegally recorded private conversation between his fire chief and union president.
Fort Lauderdale firefighter Steve Loleski, 35, a 12 year veteran, was one of 6 firefighters being investigated for fraud in regards to their EMS credentials. The FBI, Fort Lauderdale police, and the State’s Attorney have been investigating.
Loleski allegedly taped a conversation between Fort Lauderdale Fire Chief Jeffrey Justinak and IAFF Local 765 President, William Humphrey six months ago without the consent of all parties as required by Florida law. Florida is one of 12 states that require all parties to a conversation consent to it being recorded.
Loleski was apparently concerned that some of the other firefighters under investigation had cut a deal with the prosecutors, and demanded President Humphrey tell him what was going on or he would release the recording and force him to resign as president. The threat was made on July 9, 2012, and was duly reported to authorities.
During a hearing yesterday, Loleski’s attorney, Brian Silber, told Broward County Judge John Hurley that his client’s actions did not amount to extortion, and that “all he’s accused of doing is threatening to expose a tape. Nothing more,”
The problem is the black letter law definition of extortion:
Extortion is the obtaining of money or property—or otherwise requiring someone to do something they are not legally required to do—by means of a threat. The types of threats sufficient to establish extortion include threats to:
- inflict future bodily injury, or damage to property
- accuse another of a crime
- reveal confidential or embarrassing information about the victim
- take or withhold any action as an official, or cause an official to take or withhold any action
Source: Fire Officers Legal Handbook
Loleski remains in custody and is charged with one count of making threats/extortion and one count of solicitation to commit or use of confidential criminal justice information. It does not appear he has been charged with eavesdropping for the original recording.