Florida Abortion Practitioner Pleads Guilty in Extortion-Fraud Case

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 5, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Florida Abortion Practitioner Pleads Guilty in Extortion-Fraud Case

by Paul Nowak
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
June 5, 2004

Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — A Florida abortionist has entered a guilty plea as part of an agreement with federal prosecutors, ending a long battle involving alleged fraud, lying to investigators, and attempting to extort millions from the city of Ocala and Marion county.

According to court documents, James Scott Pendergraft IV has pleaded guilty to impeding justice, which could be punishable up to two and a half years in prison, a fine of $125,000 and three years of supervised release. Pendergraft will appear in federal court next weak to finalize the plea bargain.

The lengthy case began with a lawsuit filed by Pendergraft in 1998, stating that city and county officials did not provide adequate protection for his Ocala, Florida abortion business, which opened in July 1998.

After a judge threw out the suit that same month, Penderfaft’s former real estate consultant, Michael Spielvogel concocted stories that Marion County Commissioner Larry Cretul threatened a bombing of Pendergraft’s abortion facility and harm to Spielvogel’s wife, who worked there.

Pendergraft and Spielvogel submitted sworn statements, described by prosecutors as "false, fraudulent and libelous," attesting to Cretul’s remarks. Federal investigators also recorded a March 1999 meeting of Pendergraft, Spielvogel and Roy Lucas, Pendergraft’s attorney, in which they said they would repeat Cretul’s supposed threats in court and "bankrupt" Marion County by asking a jury to award them more than $100 million.

Charges were filed against Pendergraft and Spielvogel for lying under oath, fraud, and attempted extortion in 2000. Pendergraft contended the criminal charges against him for entering the false statements were because of pro-life sentiments among county commissioners.

Spielvogel admitted in court that he made up the remarks attributed to Cretul and that he faked a telephone conversation in front of Pendergraft so the abortion practitioner would think that Cretul had made the threats. Both defendants were convicted in February 2001.

Pendergraft’s attorney appealed, saying that prosecutors used racially offensive language in addressing the jury about Pendergraft, who is black, and in July 2002 the 11th Circuit Curt of Appeals reversed their convictions.

Prosecutors alleged that Pendergraft knew that Spielvogel had lied about the threats from Cretul, yet still paid psychologist William Caddy who testified on behalf of Spielvogel in during the criminal case against them.

Prosecutors will attempt to retry Spielvogel, who is currently serving an 18-month prison sentence for giving false statements.