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Lawsuit accuses prosecutor and his attorney of extortion

Published Aug. 28, 2005

New allegations in an ongoing lawsuit accuse a federal prosecutor and his attorney of trying to extort $500,000 from Manatee County Sheriff Charlie Wells.

The court document, filed Thursday, alleges assistant U.S. attorney Jeffrey Del Fuoco and attorney Craig Huffman filed a "meritless" lawsuit and used it to repeatedly "smear" the sheriff.

At an Aug. 20 meeting, Del Fuoco told Wells and his attorneys he had evidence that Wells had violated state campaign finance laws, the filing states. Del Fuoco, with Huffman at his side, then said he would "go away" if Wells agreed to pay $500,000 plus attorneys fees to settle the suit Del Fuoco brought against the sheriff and his employees, the document states.

The motion asks for sanctions against Del Fuoco and Huffman including forcing them to pay nearly $169,000 for Wells' attorneys' fees and costs.

Neither Del Fuoco or Huffman could be reached for comment. They will be allowed to file a response in writing to the court. A hearing on the matter has not been scheduled.

In 2003, Del Fuoco filed a lawsuit against the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, including Wells.

Del Fuoco said the Sheriff's Office was retaliating against him for successfully prosecuting six members of the Sheriff's Office's Delta Task Force antidrug unit in 1999 and 2000 on charges that included conspiracy to violate civil rights, witness tampering and planting evidence.