Chef In Gay Extort Bust

Man charged in "homosexual acts" photo shakedown

Shawn Lightfoot

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Chef In Gay Extort Bust

JUNE 7--While on a business trip last month to Washington, D.C., a married Michigan man was awoken one morning when an unidentified caller dialed his hotel room. The caller announced that he was in possession of photos showing the businessman "participating in homosexual acts from the evening before," and demanded $25,000 in hush money, or the images would be forwarded to the man's wife and business associates.

Upon flying back to Detroit and conferring with his spouse, the man contacted the FBI about the shakedown plot. While claiming not to recall any "homosexual liaison" in his hotel room, the man told investigators that he "felt woozy and unclear" the morning after the purported encounter. He also reported that his $20,000 Rolex was missing, along with a credit card and $200 in cash.

At the FBI's direction, the Michigan man recorded a series of telephone calls with the extortionist, who e-mailed photos taken in the hotel room. According to an FBI affidavit, the images showed the businessman (who is referred to as "Victim 1") in "compromising positions with a man." One image, an agent noted, showed "a black male's hand holding Victim 1's driver's license," while in another photo, "Victim 1 is leaning over a sink and the black male's hand is placed on his back."

In short order, FBI agents traced the phone number from which the photos were sent to Shawn Lightfoot, a 46-year-old Virginia man. Lightfoot, a married father of four, is a veteran chef who has worked at several Washington restaurants and now runs a D.C. catering firm (an online bio noted that he has attended a Culinary Institute of America boot camp).

Lightfoot is also a convicted felon who was once sentenced to five years in prison following a Virginia extortion conviction. The details of that 2003 case mirror the shakedown of the Michigan man. According to an Alexandria Police Department report, Lightfoot sought to extort $15,000 from a New York man who had traveled to Washington, D.C. on a business trip. Lightfoot threatened that unless he received the payoff, he would release photos of the victim in "compromising positions" with a black male. Lightfoot was accused of swiping the man's credit card and laptop computer, which contained the incriminating photos.

Last Wednesday, the Michigan businessman received two calls from a phone subscribed in Lightfoot's name. The caller warned that unless the $25,000 payment was wired immediately, "he would make sure Victim 1's life was destroyed."

While FBI agents in Washington surveilled Lightfoot, the businessman dialed the extortionist's phone number. "The surveillance agents witnessed Lightfoot speaking on a bluetooth headset while driving his vehicle," reported Agent Michael Lubisco. At this point, the surveillance team approached Lightfoot's vehicle "with their lights and sirens on. Victim 1 was able to hear the siren on his end of the phone call, which was recorded."

Lightfoot, pictured above in his chef's whites, was then arrested. He was charged in a June 2 criminal complaint with extortion. The Alexandria resident is scheduled to appear in a Detroit courtroom on June 17. A federal magistrate last Thursday released him on a personal recognizance bond, directing Lightfoot to avoid contact with the victim and his family. Additionally, he was ordered to not "disseminate information that is subject of complaint."

Contacted on his cell phone, Lightfoot declined to answer TSG questions about his case. (6 pages)