Private Prison Accused of Abetting Extortion

     MIAMI (CN) – A gay retiree sued a private prison company, the Geo Group, claiming it aided and abetted fraud and extortion that cost him $689,250 by illegally giving inmate-blackmailers access to cell phones.
     Joseph Pappalardo sued The Geo Group in Federal Court.
     Geo, on its Internet home page, calls itself “the world’s leading provider of correctional, detention, and community reentry services with 95 facilities, approximately 72,000 beds, and 18,000 employees around the globe.”
     Pappalardo, a retired schoolteacher who had not disclosed his sexual identity to his family, claims he was extorted and defrauded by inmates at Geo’s Lawton, Okla., prison, all of whom are serving life sentences.
     “Oklahoma Department of Corrections regulations do not permit inmates to have access to cellular telephones. Nevertheless, over a period of months, the Geo Inmates used cellular telephones to defraud, intimidate and extort Mr. Pappalardo,” the complaint states.
     Pappalardo claims that “the calls that the Geo Inmates made to Mr. Pappalardo were all made using prepaid cellular telephones.”
     In the 7-page lawsuit, Pappalardo says he joined online, telephone dating service MegaMates, through which he met men who gave him fictitious names.
     MegaMates is not a party to the complaint.
     “During his early telephone dates, as arranged by MegaMates, Mr. Pappalardo revealed to his ‘date’ that he was still ‘in the closet’ and that he believed his family was unaware of his sexual orientation,” the complaint states.
     “Mr. Pappalardo met a new ‘date’ on MegaMates in mid-February 2011. After about two weeks, this ‘date’ began requesting money from Mr. Pappalardo to help the ‘date’ with purported financial needs.
     “Mr. Pappalardo sent the requested funds by means of a Green Dot card.
     “After several more dates over the next one – two weeks, the ‘date’ asked Mr. Pappalardo for additional funds. When Mr. Pappalardo refused, the ‘date’ threatened to expose Mr. Pappalardo’s homosexuality to his family if Mr. Pappalardo did not send him more money. In response, Mr. Pappalardo sent additional funds by Green Dot card.
     “Over the ensuing several months, Mr. Pappalardo’s ‘date’ and others induced Mr. Pappalardo to send funds to them, primarily through the use of Green Dot cards, by threatening to expose his homosexuality[,] by threatening physical violence upon Mr. Pappalardo, including killing him, and threatening violence to Mr. Pappalardo’s family, including kidnapping his two young nieces.”
     Then comes a list of 87 withdrawals from Pappalarado’s bank accounts from April to November of 2011: he claims he sent the blackmailers a total of $689,250, paying up to $50,000 at a time. Most withdrawals are in the neighborhood of $5,000.
     “Unbeknownst to Mr. Pappalardo, his ‘date’ and the ‘date’s’ confederates were all inmates of Geo’s Lawton Oklahoma facility,” the complaint states.
     It adds: “By failing to properly supervise the Geo Inmates, allowing them the use of cellular telephones in violation of Oklahoma Department of Corrections Regulations and permitting the Geo Inmates to defraud, intimidate and extort Mr. Pappalardo, Geo has breached its duty of care to the public, including Mr. Pappalardo. As a result of that breach of duty, Mr. Pappalardo has suffered substantial losses.
     “Upon information and belief, Geo employees were aware of the illicit use of cellular telephones by the Geo Inmates.
     “Upon information and belief, Geo employees were aware that the Geo Inmates were all serving substantial prison sentences and had little or nothing to lose by defrauding and extorting Mr. Pappalardo.”
     Pappalardo seeks damages for negligence, aiding and abetting and his financial and emotional losses.
     He is represented by lead counsel Jeffrey Hellman, of New Haven, Conn.

%d bloggers like this: