A Delray Beach, Fla., man charged with threatening to make a Chattanooga man’s children “disappear” was taken into custody on extortion charges.
Law enforcement said that in early 2020, Lance Alan Mays, 63, extorted the victim by threatening to harm members of his family. Police also said Mays stole around $10,000 worth of property by taking the victim’s vehicle for payment of a debt, and also forced the victim under threat of violence and coercion to change over a life insurance policy valued at $800,000 listing himself as the new beneficiary.
The victim also told a detective that Mays forged his signature to fraudulently change the life insurance beneficiary to be that of Mays.
In December of 2020, detectives spoke again to the victim, who told of being extorted by Mays. He said he had been introduced to Mays in 2017 through an associate he knew well. The victim said Mays told him he was looking to invest money in a company and looked to profit from it.
Police said Mays invested through a firm called WestCoast Insurance Brokerage. The victim said Mays made a $100,000 investment, and that over the next 18 months Mays invested $500,000. He said the two agreed to share profits on a quarterly basis. Police said the victim told them Mays received a 17 percent annual interest rate plus profit sharing, which is against Tennessee law. The law limits interest rates at 10 percent.
The victim said his lending business began to weaken in 2019 and was operating his business at around a 10 percent loss rate. But in reality, it was operating at a 30 percent loss rate. He described the company as “bleeding money.” The victim said money was being paid back to investors such as Mays. The victim said that the business failed in October.
He said that in January 2020, he and his wife were coming home from dinner when he saw a white pickup truck with two men drive into the driveway. He said he recognized the men as Mays and Michael Steinberg (a fellow investor). He said Steinberg and Mays threatened him for an hour, saying things like “where’s my money” and “I don’t want anything bad to happen to you.”
He said Mays told him the Mays had committed “elder abuse.” The victim told police he did not know of Mays’ history during their partnership and that he simply thought he was a wealthy investor.
The next day, the victim said he agreed to meet with Mays at a local restaurant, as he said his family is not involved with his business dealings. He said that when he got home though, Mays was already at his house, having been given permission to come inside by the victim’s wife.
The victim and Mays spoke in the basement office about the victim owing a large sum of money to Mays. He said Mays forced him to write a letter stating he misused investment funds, and that he signed over his and his wife’s life insurance to Mays. He said Mays told him to sell his vehicle to repay his debts, but he said he did not have the title of the vehicle “due to using it as collateral to finance another business investment.”
He told police that Mays said that he needed to find a way to get Mays’ money, or else he would have “guys who will take you into the woods and nail your balls to a tree til I get my money back.” Police said the victim recorded Mays without Mays’ knowledge, and that he provided law enforcement with a copy of the recording. Police said the recording corroborated what was said.
The victim told police he paid Mays several times a week by depositing money into Mays’ bank account. He said that he broke off communication in early March 2020, and that he then received a phone call from Mays. He said Mays threatened to make his children “disappear” and to watch the film “Uncut Gems.”
Detectives reviewed the recording, and it corroborated the victim’s account of events. Detectives also found a beneficiary change letter that changed the beneficiary from the victim’s family to Mays’. They also received other bank-related documents that indicated the victim was being extorted.
On Wednesday, Mays was arrested and charged with three counts of extortion, one count of robbery, one count of theft of property over $10,000, forgery, and one count of other offenses against the public.