By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
Attorney Mark Boyd got the call late on a Monday night a little more than a year ago. The pained voice on the other end of the line delivered distressing news. "Mark, I think I'm being blackmailed," said Michael Creedon. "They're asking for three hundred grand." According to court documents, Creedon explained how a man purporting to be a private investigator had scaled the fence surrounding his waterfront property, bypassed his snarling German shepherd, and interrupted his meat loaf dinner.
"Mike, there's a man at the door," Kristina Lewis, Creedon's buxom dinner companion, told him. Creedon eased from his favorite perch in front of the large-screen TV in the living room and hobbled to the door. A man stood there in the shadows like some cloak-and-dagger figure. "You're going to want to take a look at this," he said, handing him a slim typewritten packet. "I know the sheriff's office and the state attorney will be interested." Creedon leafed through the material. Laid out in professional prose under the heading "Investigation Summary" were all sorts of lurid allegations.
"The target of this investigation is Mr. Michael J. Creedon, a white male, approximately 60 years of age," he read. "The objective of the investigation is to ascertain the validity of allegations made, by concerned parties, regarding deviant sexual behavior and the illegal dispensing of controlled substances by Mr. Creedon." Creedon read on. Over nine pages of "findings," the report explained how he had purchased cocaine from a 26-year-old exotic dancer, how a 23-year-old married woman from Miami referred to him as "her sugar daddy," how he'd "on at least three separate occasions" had "sexual contact" with one 15-year-old girl, and how he'd paid another 15-year-old to expose herself. Creedon steadied himself. "What do you want?" he asked of the big man with the dirty-blond mustache who stood in the doorway.
"I think $350,000 might do the trick," the man said.
Mike Creedon had had trouble like this before. But the last time the Palm Beach Gardens resident was a victim of what might be called "legal extortion." Three years earlier a young woman who'd helped the old man around the house filed suit for sexual harassment. Creedon's attorney, Mark Boyd, was still fighting her off. Now Kristina Lewis had turned on him. Though she expressed concern after the mystery man had gone, Creedon saw right through it. Lewis had never been much of a liar. In any case the information in the report was far too accurate to have come from anywhere else. Lewis and the PI were trying to squeeze him.
Kristy Lewis and Mike Creedon had been an item off and on for almost three years. They'd met at Rick's Sports Bar in Jensen Beach, a raucous place where Lewis was a bartender. Creedon offered the 30-year-old mother of seven $10 an hour to come work for him helping out around the house and a great deal more money for "other services." She took him up on his offer.
Now, almost five years later, Creedon and Lewis are no longer on speaking terms. In the last two months, Lewis, her husband, and the phony PI have all pleaded guilty to charges they attempted to extort $300,000 from Michael Creedon and failed to report child abuse to the proper authorities. They got six months' probation and a bundle of legal fees for their trouble. Creedon too copped a plea, on felony charges he fondled a minor, but after a few months' legal supervision, he may have his record cleansed. The sexual shenanigans and botched extortion that landed them all in a legal pickle form the backdrop for a tale of sleaze and greed that cuts across class lines. Only Creedon and Paul Bellefeuille, the phony PI, would talk about the case. Despite guilty pleas both claim they are innocent. Bellefeuille claims legal fees inspired his plea. "I pled because I couldn't afford to fight it," he says. Creedon claims the extortion collapsed because it was baseless. "They had nothing to blackmail me with," he says. "Nothing happened."
Stacks of legal documents released to New Times tell a different story. They expose an immoral world in which a wealthy retiree wielded sympathy and cash to elicit sexual favors from low-income women hired as home health aides or housekeepers only to find himself the victim of a complex scheme to use the misfortunes of teenage girls for monetary gain.
The main characters in this story, Lewis and Creedon, could scarcely have come from more different worlds. Creedon is a retired entrepreneur who lives quietly at the far end of a dead-end street beyond a nautically themed gate draped in fishnets and guarded by pillars shaped like lighthouses. The lonely, divorced former IBM executive from Connecticut branched out on his own in the '70s and made a bundle with his company, PCL Financial, by anticipating the need for leased computers. He had a big house in Greenwich, belonged to the Stanwich Club, an exclusive Greenwich country club, and hung out with lawyers and businessmen.
Lewis is poorly educated and financially unstable. The working mother shares with five of her seven kids (the two oldest live with her first husband in Colorado) a drab, cream-colored house in a lower-middle-class neighborhood in Jupiter, a place of crossing guards, basketball hoops in driveways, and careening kids on dirt bikes. Since moving to South Florida from Iowa in 1989, she's been a bartender and a waitress, sold hot dogs in a bikini by the side of the road, served drinks at seedy West Palm Beach strip clubs, even done secretarial work at a local law firm. Court documents reveal a woman hungry for opportunity -- drawn to South Florida by the abundance of new wealth. With so much money around, economic salvation always seemed right around the corner.