ELYRIA — An Avon Lake Fire Department captain has been indicted for allegedly trying to blackmail a fellow firefighter into resigning.
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Capt. Glen Eisenhardt, 41, turned himself in at the Lorain County Jail on Friday to face charges of extortion, unauthorized use of property and telecommunications fraud. He was released on bond and is scheduled to be arraigned next week.
Avon Lake Human Resources Director Joe DeTillio said in a news release that Eisenhardt has been placed on administrative leave. Mayor Greg Zilka said the leave is paid at this point, but he otherwise declined to comment Friday.
“As this matter is now in the court system, we are not able to discuss any further details of this issue,” DeTillio said in the release.
Eisenhardt, who was first hired as a firefighter in 2000, was named the city’s fire chief in December 2011, but he asked for a demotion a year later so he could spend more time with his children.
“I have two passions: this job and my family,” he said at the time he requested the demotion.
The alleged blackmail scheme began in February 2016 when Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Moore received a letter in the mail threatening to expose an alleged extramarital relationship unless he resigned or retired from the Fire Department by March 1, 2016, according to an affidavit seeking a search warrant for Eisenhardt’s electronic devices filed last year.
The letter also wanted Moore to convince Avon Lake City Council to eliminate his position, Terry Folley, an investigator with county Prosecutor Dennis Will’s office, wrote.
Moore received an email Feb. 17 from a sender that had identified himself with a name similar to an Avon Lake resident who had opposed tax efforts in the past.
“The email indicated that the sender had not heard of Moore taking action consistent with his demands and warning Moore that the sender would release the information not only to Moore’s wife but also to the Fire Department and even City Council,” Folley wrote. “On February 17, 2016, Moore responded to the email saying he was working on retiring but could not meet the deadline the sender had imposed.”
Email and internet service provider records subpoenaed by investigators show the email account was created and accessed using a computer connected to an internet account used by the city’s fire union the day the message was sent. The same account was accessed from Eisenhardt’s home Feb. 18, 2016.
On Feb. 23, 2016, Moore received another email from the same address in which the sender complained that he had heard Moore would be taking some time off and demanded an explanation for the delay.
When Moore replied that he had a medical procedure scheduled, he received an email from a different email address that said only “DEADLINE APPROACHING,” Folley wrote. Internet records showed that the second email address had been accessed from Myrtle Beach, S.C., but the man who lived at the address told detectives he didn’t known anyone from the Fire Department and had had no visitors at the time the email was sent.
Moore received another email April 7, about a week after he announced he would retire in about a year that said the announcement “was inconsistent with the sender’s previous timeline,” Folley wrote. That email was sent from a third account that had been accessed from Eisenhardt’s home internet service April 4, authorities said.
Folley also wrote that when he was questioned last year, Eisenhardt said that he had only recently protected his home wireless internet router with a password and also noted that it was connected with a booster device that extended the signal’s reach.
Eisenhardt’s lawyer, Dan Wightman, said he thinks the felony extortion charge against his client is excessive.
“Glen’s a good man, a good firefighter,” he said. “… We’re hopeful that this will get resolved without him losing his job.”
Moore did not return a call seeking comment Friday.