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What is Extortion? A closer look at the alleged extortionate demands of Highlands and ARC board members under Florida law


Extortion crimes prosecuted under Florida law are classified as a second-degree felony under Florida Statute Section 836.05, punishable by up to 15 years in Florida State Prison and a $10,000 fine.

Under Florida law, the term “extortion” involves the use of threats, coercion, or intimidation to obtain property, assets, benefits, money or other things of value such as goods or services. Within the definition, even a threat to a person’s mental well-being can constitute a threat of injury. Under Florida law, the courts have held that the threatened injury does not necessarily have to be a threat of physical injury. Extortion, also known as blackmail, describes a threat made in order to take another person's money or property, or to compel another person to act or not act. 

This series of articles will look at several of the allegations and documents involving extortion and wire fraud, but today's focuses only on the extortionate email from the Highland's Head Overseer and ARC Board. Below are allegations 130-134 of the original Federal lawsuit, where the defendants have accepted all of these allegations against them as true.

"Then, on January 17, 2022, Defendants sent an extortionate email to

Pastor Weems through their agent, Larry Stockstill, an Overseer and Apostolic Elder of Highlands and Hodges' personal pastor..." (read more below)

Florida Statue 836.05 Threats; Extortion.-

"Whoever, either verbally or by a written or printed communication, maliciously threatens to accuse another of any crime or offense, or by such communication maliciously threatens an injury to the person, property or reputation of another, or maliciously threatens to expose another to disgrace, or to expose any secret affecting another, or to impute any deformity or lack of chastity to another, with intent thereby to extort money or any pecuniary advantage whatsoever, or with intent to compel the person so threatened, or any other person, to do any act or refrain from doing any act against his or her will, shall be guilty of a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084."

What is wire fraud in Florida?

Wire fraud is a felony offense wherein the accused voluntarily and intentionally devised or participated in a scheme to defraud another individual or entity of property or money, using wire communications such as phone, email, radio, or television communication in interstate commerce and foreign commerce.

One of the most common federal criminal charges is wire fraud. The "wire" is any form of telecommunication. Forms of telecommunication include phone, fax, and text messages. They also include radio, television, and internet messages. They may also include social media messages, emails, or any other form of airwave. It's possible they can even include cable communication. "Fraud" involves the use of intentional deception for monetary or personal gain.

This type of crime can make use of any and all forms of electronic media including telephone or fax machine, email or social media, or SMS and text messaging. Wire fraud often involves communications made between state or national borders, and is punishable by both hefty fines and jail sentences.

Florida’s Communications Fraud Act

Under Florida Statute §817.034, it is illegal for an individual to engage in the scheme to defraud someone including communicating with any persons with the intent to obtain their property. Under Florida’s statutes the penalties for wire fraud and/or mail fraud are:

  • First-degree felony – If the total value of the property obtained is $50,000 and is punishable by 30 years of imprisonment (See Stat. §817.034(4)(a)(1))

  • Second-degree felony – If the total value of the property obtained is $20,000 or more but less than $50,000, and is punishable by 15 years of imprisonment (See Stat. §817.034(4)(a)(2))

  • Third-degree felony – If the total value of the property obtained is less than $20,000 then the defendant will have to serve a term of 5 years in imprisonment (See Stat. §817.034(4)(a)(3))

  • Misdemeanor – If the value of the property is less than $300

Do you think you've been a victim of extortion or wire fraud? Leave a comment below and check back for part two in this series of articles.


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