TAMPA — Relatives accused of plotting to extort money from prominent Tampa philanthropist Don Wallace turned themselves in to Hillsborough County authorities on Monday night.
Marion "Connie" Strickland, 61, her husband, Clyde Buford Strickland, 67, and their daughter Samantha Harris, 26, are charged with extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion. Wallace said last week that they plotted to coerce $1.2-million from him by claiming that the RV magnate had molested his niece and fathered her child. Wallace, 59, vehemently denied their accusations.
The relatives had posted bail in their native South Carolina and, until Monday, had been refusing extradition, Assistant State Attorney Pam Bondi said. Prosecutors were seeking a governor's warrant to have them re-arrested and brought to Florida to face charges, Bondi said.
Instead, the Stricklands traveled here themselves and were booked Monday night at the Orient Road Jail, where they were held on $100,000 bail.
Bondi called it a "wise decision" on their parts. "Better to drive down here than be driven in a transport van," she said.
Wallace, founder of the massive Lazydays RV SuperCenter on Interstate 4 in Seffner, called a news conference Wednesday to describe an extortion scheme in which he said his relatives accused him of molesting his niece, impregnating her, taking her to have an abortion and then impregnating her again.
"None of that happened," Wallace said.
The State Attorney's Office expects to file formal charges against the three suspects within a few weeks, Bondi said, pending the completion of a police report.
Thomas Kaplan can be reached at (813) 226-3404 or firstname.lastname@example.org.