Florida woman charged in trucking extortion scam

April 9, 2013

A Florida woman has been charged with extortion after a State Attorney’s Office and Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement investigation and sting operation caught her allegedly attempting to shake down a trucking company for cash in return for giving the company additional business.

Authorities arrested Denise Jaquith Smith, 60 of Molino, FL, for extorting cash payments from Willie Kirkland Trucking in exchange for using an additional truck daily from the company to haul sand from a sandpit to Pensacola Beach, according to a NorthEscambia.com report.

According to the arrest warrant, Michael Bartlett, manager of RLF Baldwin Operations II, met with Willie C. Kirland of Willie Kirkland Trucking in November 2012. Bartlett and Kirkland agreed to have Kirkland’s company provide three trucks per day to haul sand.

As office manager for RLF Baldwin, Smith had the responsibility to organize the trucking company’s pickup and delivery of sand. On Feb. 18, the day the project started, Smith told a Kirkland employee that they would not be using the third truck, which would have cost the trucking firm $550 per day, the report states.

Smith allegedly told Kirkland that she would ensure RLF Baldwin would use the third truck if Kirkland paid her $75 in cash per day. The Kirkland employee reported the extortion plot to authorities. A sting was set up and on March 14, under law enforcement surveillance, Kirkland paid Smith $450 and arranged for another payment to be made on March 21.

On March 19, a warrant was issued for Smith’s arrest and she was later arrested and booked into the Escambia County Jail. Smith was released from jail on a $10,000 bond.

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Deborah Whistler

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