Feds convict Florida man for extortion of Carbondale businessman

BENTON — A 36-year-old Florida man has been sentenced in U.S. District Court in Benton for extortion of a Carbondale businessman.

James W. Russell, of Lake Worth, Fla., was sentenced to 18 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Russell was also ordered to pay full restitution to the victim of his crime.

At the time of his guilty plea, Russell admitted that beginning in February 2008, he extorted money from an individual who operated a business in Carbondale, by threatening to expose certain activities of the businessman (due to victim privacy concerns, the name of the businessman is not noted herein).

Russell convinced the business owner to provide cash payments and Russell forced the victim to pay various expenses on his behalf, including purchasing a boat for Russell to live on in Florida, providing a car for the Russell to drive, and purchasing a motorcycle for Russell to ride.

The investigation revealed that the extortion continued for a period of more than five years. The total amount of cash payments and expenses paid by the victim was $204,484.64.

The investigation was conducted by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Housing Finance Agency – Office of the Inspector General. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Scott A. Verseman.