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Man Claims He Was Targeted for Extortion

(CN) - A Venezuelan business man claims in a lawsuit that he was extorted for five million dollars by a shareholder of the Doral Newspaper and Doral TV.

In a complaint filed in the Miami Federal Court on May 13, plaintiff Gianfranco Rondon claims that he conducts international transactions and exports products manufactured in the United States to Venezuela.

Over the last few years South Florida has become the epicenter for trade and commerce between the two countries, Rondon says.

Defendant Doral Newspaper publishes a printed and an online newspaper known as Doral News, and defendant Doral TV operates a television station that broadcasts to the Miami Dade-County community via Comcast Cable channel 84.

Both Doral News and Doral TV are widely popular among the Venezuelan community in South Florida and in Venezuela, the complaint says.

Rondon claims that after defendant Gianfranco Napolitano, another wealthy Venezuelan businessman, acquired a large number of shares from Doral Newspaper and Doral TV, he commenced a scheme using the newspaper, the TV station and their employees -- specifically, defendants Patricia Poleo and Jonathan Leon -- to extort him.

Rondon says that Napolitano published a "series of false and defamatory stories" to negatively affect his business in order to force him to pay five million dollars.

The plaintiff then alleges that in January 2015, Napolitano's business associate, Tulio Capriles Hernandez, contacted him to try to sell him Napolitano's interest in Doral Newspaper and Doral TV for five million dollars. However, due to plaintiff's refusal to pay such a high amount of money, defendants Poleo and Leon made public slanderous stories about him.

Rondon says that Poleo published unverified facts in the Doral News online version and in his Twitter account which made the readers believe that he has family ties with high ranking political figures in Venezuela. He also says Poleo accused him of criminal acts such as being the "bag man" and managing the enormous fortune of Diosdado Cabello, the president of the National Assembly of Venezuela.

"Poleo makes false statements that plaintiff is currently under investigation by authorities in Washington, that his fortune and business success may be derived from illegal acts and that he possesses a bank account with close to 500 million U.S. dollars," the complaint says.

The complaint goes on to allege that defendant Leon led the public to believe that plaintiff worked with Miguel Eduardo Rodriguez Torres, a Venezuelan government official who has been involved in crimes against Venezuelan citizens and human rights violations, including the death of more than 40 students.

Rondon says that around the same time that the false stories about him were being published, defendant Napolitano visited the home of Carlos Herradez, owner of Doral News and Doral TV, and asked him to notify plaintiff that if he paid the requested five million dollars the defamation against him would stop.

During the visit Napolitano offered Herradez one million dollars if he would cooperate with the extortion against Rondon, but he refused and immediately notified plaintiff about Napolitano's scheme. However, since he declined to participate Napolitano threatened him by text with "Omerta, a reference to the Mafia code of silence, and stating those who violate Omerta face death," the complaint says.

Rondon claims that on March 16, 2015, he sent a letter to defendants Doral Newspaper, Poleo and Leon notifying them of their libelous statements, and demanding their retraction. However, they failed to respond to his request.

Plaintiff says that defendants' false and defamatory stories have subjected him to "distrust, hatred, contempt, ridicule and obloquy among business partners, associates and the public in general."

"Defendants' scheme constitutes a pattern of racketeering activity to maintain an enterprise that is engaged in interstate or foreign commerce," plaintiff says.

Rondon seeks compensatory damages on claims of violation of RICO and defamation.

He is represented by Julisse Jimenez from Vazquez & Carballo of Miami, Fla.

Doral News did not respond to several requests for comment.

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