By Kevin Deutsch
Former Tamarac City Manager Michael Cernech will make his first court appearance on Sept. 21, new records show.
Cernech’s arraignment is scheduled for 8:45 a.m. before Circuit Court Judge Edward H. Merrigan, Jr. in Broward County Circuit Court, 201 SE 6th Street in Fort Lauderdale, the court records show.
Cernech was fired by the Tamarac City Commission during an emergency meeting Tuesday, days after his Friday arrest, for allegedly helping extort more than $3 million from a local developer.
The Commission voted 4-1 to terminate Cernech with cause, with multiple members stating they wanted to make a clean break with the longtime public official, 52, who prosecutors said conspired to commit racketeering with several co-conspirators, including corrupt father-and-son developer duo Bruce and Shawn Chait.
Cernech was charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering under the RICO statutes, which resulted from the Chaits and Cernech attempting to pressure Arnaud Karsenti, the Managing Principal of 13th Floor Investments into coughing up $3.4 million in extortion money, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
In exchange for the payoff, the Chaits’ vowed to cease a years-long harassment and intimidation campaign they and their allies waged against Karsenti by publicizing false evidence—including lawsuits— claiming the Sabal Palm and Monterrey golf courses on which 13th Floor built the Manor Parc, and Central Parc developments were environmentally tainted, records show.
Other co-conspirators in the case include John Colonel and Harris Shapiro, records show.
The Chaits have a history of criminal corruption in Tamarac and Broward County, partaking in an earlier bribery scandal. Multiple Tamarac officials were implicated and arrested, and a county commissioner was sent to prison.
Cernech is currently free on a $200,000 bond and monitored with a GPS device, court records show.
As a condition of his bond, Cernech is legally barred from contact with his co-defendants and can only leave his home to transport his children, the records show.
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- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.