Former prosecutor pleads guilty to bribery, extortion, fraud

February 23, 2022 GMT

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — A former state attorney in north Florida has pleaded guilty to participating in a bribery and extortion scheme.

Jeffrey Siegmeister, 53, of Live Oak, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Jacksonville federal court to conspiracy to use a facility of commerce for bribery and extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion, wire fraud and filing a false tax return, according to court records. Besides facing the possibility of decades in prison, Siegmeister agreed to forfeit $518,803.50 and 7,372 shares of The Coca-Cola Company common stock, proceeds he obtained through his commission of the offenses.

From 2013 through 2109, Siegmeister was the elected state attorney for the 3rd Judicial Circuit of Florida, covering the counties of Columbia, Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee and Taylor.

According to court documents, Siegmeister conspired with defense attorney Michael O’Steen, who represented clients being prosecuted by Siegmeister’s office, federal prosecutors said. From November 2017 to May 2019, Siegmeister solicited bribes from O’Steen in exchange for the favorable disposition of charges filed against his clients, officials said.

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In one case, Siegmeister helped O’Steen extort $60,000 from a client by withholding a pre-trial intervention agreement, investigators said. O’Steen has been charged with conspiracy to use a facility of commerce for unlawful activity, conspiracy to commit extortion, aiding and abetting extortion and failure to file a form in connection with the receipt of currency. A defense attorney for O’Steen did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment from The Associated Press.

In a separate case, Siegmeister told defense attorney Ernest Maloney Page IV in September 2017 that he would dismiss two DUI charges for one of Page’s clients in exchange for a $20,000 discount on a tractor Siegmeister wanted to buy from the client’s dealership, officials said. They added that Siegmeister later bought the discounted tractor and allowed the client to plead guilty to reckless driving with alcohol and refusal to submit to a blood alcohol test. Page pleaded guilty in 2020 to conspiracy to commit federal program bribery.

From approximately January 2010 through April 2016, Siegmeister engaged in a scheme to defraud an elderly person under his legal guardianship, prosecutors said. Siegmeister transferred the victim’s assets to himself and created a will for the victim that designated Siegmeister’s relative as the sole beneficiary of the victim’s estate, officials said.