Man sues Boca prison operator, says inmates extorted him on dating service

Source: Brett Clarkson, Sun Sentinel, July 24, 2013

The Boca Raton-based prison company at the center of an ill-fated attempt to put its name on FAU’s football stadium now finds itself at the center of a scandal involving prisoners, a dating website and extortion. The GEO Group, which yanked its offer to pay $6 million for stadium naming rights at FAU in the wake of student protests, is being accused of lax oversight of inmates who got access to phones and used them to impersonate people on the dating site, MegaMates….

…Now, a gay retired high school teacher says those inmates tricked him and extorted him out of more than $600,000, his life savings, by threatening to out him to his family. Joseph Pappalardo, of East Hartford. Conn., accuses GEO Group of failing to supervise the group of inmates who blackmailed him, according to a lawsuit filed in the West Palm Beach federal courthouse. According to the suit, the Connecticut retiree ended up sending 86 payments totaling more than $670,000 between April 15 and Nov. 1, 2011 after the inmates at the Lawton Correctional Facility threatened him with death and exposure….

…Pappalardo is claiming that GEO was negligent and that it aided and abetted the inmates who targeted him. The Lawton Correctional Facility, where the scam allegedly happened, is a medium-security prison with a capacity of 2,526, according to GEO’s web site. GEO is contracted by the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to operate the facility. Because it is a felony under Oklahoma state law for a prisoner in a state institution to have a cellphone, Pappalardo is alleging that GEO is culpable because the inmates should never have had cellphones in the first place….