Florida: An analysis of civil causes of action for extortion

One of the most common legal ideas that impact marriage and family law is extortion. It is often misused, misunderstood, and ignored. Family law proceedings often bring up criminal matters, but they are so subtle that they are missed or considered a natural part of the conflict.

This article will briefly address the cause for action (CoA), extortion in Florida and its elements, and case studies.

What is the CoA in Florida for extortion?

Florida Statute 836.05 states that extortion can be defined as a crime in which someone threatens to accuse another person of an offense or infraction, harm their reputation, cause embarrassment to another person, divulge a secret that could hurt another, or give someone a defect or lack of virtue.

Extortion can be used to force someone to do something or to stop them from doing it.

This is one of the most well-known cases in South Florida regarding extortion.

Many people in South Florida were interested in “The Jills” and their competitor broker Kevin Tomilson in 2018 when details of their legal dispute became public. One person could face up to 30 years imprisonment for extortion after a long-running dispute that involved lavish homes, large sums of money, and lots of drama.

Kevin Tomilson was charged with extortion against Jill Hertzberg and Jill Eber. The Jills were manipulating their listing on Multiple Listing Service (MLS), a website for brokers and real estate agents. He demanded twice as much when they gave him a $400,000 check to end his threat.

Florida: Can you sue to extort?

CoA is a form of extortion in which the defendant, with malicious intent, causes injury to the plaintiff by forcibly or compelling him to do or abstain from performing an act against his will. Here are the penalties for extortion:

  1. Extortion in Florida is a second-degree felony and can result in a sentence of 15 years imprisonment, 15 years probation, and a $10,000 fine.
  2. According to Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code, executing is a crime with a level 6 severity rating.
  3. If someone is found guilty of extortion, they have the right to be sentenced to probation or to the maximum length of time allowed by law (15 years) in prison.

What are the components of Florida extortion?

These are the elements that constitute Florida extortion:

  1. Threat The prosecution must prove that the defendant made a verbal or written threat. The threat of bodily harm, death, or psychological harm to the victim, another person, or property, if the victim doesn’t comply with the threat, could result in the victim being subject to a written or verbal threat. The defendant may also threaten to reveal a secret, accuse the victim of a crime, or jeopardize his reputation. Florida law allows defendants to threaten to do either legal or illegal acts. Extortion can include the threat of judicial actions, provided the prosecutor can prove that the defendant acted deliberately.
  2. Intent – The prosecution must prove that the offender intended for the victim to be helpless and force them to do acts against their will, to receive property, or for any other reason. Florida law does not require that the victim be able to perform the threatening action or have the intent to do so.

Duan against State. In this case, the State must prove each of the four factors without any doubts to establish an extortion crime.

  1. The defendant communicated with the plaintiff verbally, in writing, or both.
  2. This contact was an illegal threat of harm to the plaintiff by the defendant.
  3. The danger was intentionally made.
  4. This threat was intended to extract money or other financial benefits.

The defendant made a malicious threat to force another person to perform an act against their will.

In Alonso v. State, 447 So.2d 1029, 1030 (Fla. 4th DCA 1984):

Executing is not an offense that involves actual malice. A malicious threat to incite someone against their will is one of the fundamental elements of the law. The threshold for malignancy is reached if the danger is made “willfully and intentionally to the harm and detriment of another …” (4th edition Black’s Law Dictionary). Malicious threats are those made with intent and without reason. When combined with the required purpose, it is a crime of extortion.

Crossdale v. Crossdale is a case where extortion wasn’t recognized.


Michael Crossdale was the brother of Errol Crossdale and filed a lawsuit against him in Florida in 2010. He claimed that he had illegally acquired the Cape Coral deed.

The Florida trial court ruled in Michael’s favor in two separate verdicts. Errol was expelled from the property, and the first grant of silent title was granted to him. Errol appealed the decisions to the Second District Court of Appeal. They were upheld. Errol appealed against the decision to the Florida Supreme Court. It was dismissed.

After exhausting all his options in state courts, Errol sought a fresh start in federal court. His pro se lawsuit was received by the Middle District of Florida on August 23, 2013. His brother Michael, Stacy Bianco, James Bianco, Patricia Crossdale, and Linda Worth, Worthit Realty, LLC, were the defendants in his second amended suit.

Eight counts were also included in the second amended complaint. The complaint sought monetary damages for racketeering and theft by deception, conversions, collusion, violations, due process, conspiracy, fraud, and extortion.

“Defendant Michael A. Crossdale improperly used the [Florida State] court to scam and defraud Errol of money and properties” was the main charge. Errol allegedly suffered harm in each count due to the verdict in the state case.

The defendants moved to dismiss the complaint because the district court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction under the Rooker–Feldman doctrine. The district court dismissed the case on this ground. Errol appealed.

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