Florida man extorted over $80K from wife to fuel drug habit by claiming cartel involvement: police

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Florida man extorted over $80K from wife to fuel drug habit by claiming cartel involvement: police

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A Melbourne, Florida man was arrested after allegedly extorting over $80,000 from his wife to fuel his cocaine habit by falsely claiming he was involved with a drug cartel.

Eric Paul Johnson, 29, was charged with grand theft of $100,000 or more, organized fraud to obtain property valued over $50,000 or more, extortion, and unlawful use of a two-way communications device – all felonies.

Court records say Johnson’s wife returned home from work in December 2023 and saw several messages from an unknown phone number. In the messages, the person demanded various sums of money.

Johnson allegedly told his wife they were being blackmailed and that a man named “Troy” was going to help them out.

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Eric Paul Johnson mugshot

Eric Paul Johnson allegedly told his wife he was involved with a drug cartel and extorted over $80,000 from her to fuel his cocaine habit. (Brevard County Sheriffs Office)

The person who sent the messages told Johnson’s wife that her husband would be hurt or killed if she did not send money to a CashApp account.

For instance, one of the messages read in part, “… 500 now for my family or things will happen.”

In another message, the person wrote, “500 now or buenas noches,” which means good night in Spanish.

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Melbourne, FL Police badge

Melbourne police arrested Eric Johnson for allegedly extorting over $80,000 from his wife. (Melbourne Police Department)

Johnson was missing when the messages were sent, though this was not the first time he had allegedly disappeared, and ransom was demanded.

Just two months before Johnson’s wife reported him missing, he started to disappear frequently because he allegedly owed money to the cartel.

Once she paid the ransom to the alleged cartel, Johnson would come home.

When Johnson disappeared in December, he was in possession of his wife’s car. She told police she believed he returned to the house on the day of the kidnapping, noting she saw an outfit he was previously wearing in the bedroom, court documents note.

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Police found Johnson the day after he was reported missing after he was seen driving on US 192 in Melbourne.

Police said in the court filing that Johnson admitted he was the one who sent the text messages from an unknown number to his wife, adding he had a cocaine problem.

Although Johnson said he never sold drugs, he admitted he was a personal user, court documents alleged.

When investigators searched his phone, they allegedly found “sexting” messages to a woman on the day he was reported missing by his wife.

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Johnson met his wife in May 2020, and he disclosed to her that he used cocaine and marijuana, but also worked for a drug cartel, court documents allege.

He also allegedly told her he was running a “large quantity of cocaine, which was ultimately intercepted and resulted in a loss of $60,000.”

Johnson’s wife helped him pay off the alleged debt.

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Nearly two years before the couple married, Johnson allegedly stole $9,000 from his wife by pulling money out of ATMs around Melbourne.

Between May 2020 and December 2023, Johnson allegedly received $18,120 from his wife and a total of $124,549 from her and other sources.

On Friday, Johnson pleaded not guilty to the charges.

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