MULBERRY – There have been criminal cases over the years involving people arrested for having certain images on cameras and cell phones, and glaring examples include those charged for having child pornography, or images of unsuspecting people that they illegally captured in public places.
On Thursday, May 10, a Mulberry resident was arrested in part for having a digital media card that was supposed to have images of chemical spills on it – but didn’t.
His problem: according to Polk County Sheriff’s detectives, John Robert Browning made the claim that he did have images of chemical spills and damaged property on the card, and then tried to extort money from a local business.
“Upon his arrest, Browning had in his possession a digital media card which does not contain 1,137 photos of chemical spills or damaged property, and notes he had taken with details of the meeting and the amount of money he was to receive,” noted Carrie Eleazer, public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, in her report on the arrest.
Browning, 33, of 4000 Shady Hammock Drive in Mulberry, was arrested after detectives said the sheriff’s office got a call from a security worker at the Mosaic Corporation, who said Browning had contacted the firm demanding that it pay him thousands of dollars for a digital media card that he insisted had incriminating photos on it.
Mosaic is the world’s leading producer and marketer of concentrated phosphate and potash, two of the primary nutrients required to grow food. The company works on crop nutrition development, from the mining of resources to the production of crop nutrients, feed and industrial products for customers around the world, and has a plant near Tampa. Their customer base includes wholesalers, retail dealers and individual grower.
Detectives say that on May 7, Browning called the Mosaic office at 13830 Circa Crossing Drive in Lithia, an unincorporated community in neighboring Hillsborough County, and spoke to a legal secretary there.
“He told the secretary that he found a broken camera that had a media card in it with ‘1,137 pictures of Mosaic property with chemical spills and damaged property, that could cause damage to their reputation if the wrong entity possessed them,’ “ Eleazer noted.
She said Browning also claimed “that he wanted a finder’s fee to turn the card over.”
The firm’s security superintendent, Hamp Plowden, took over and contacted the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. He apparently knew who to contact, because as Eleazer noted, Plowden is also a former full-time Polk County Sheriff’s Office deputy sheriff and current reserve deputy sheriff.
Plowden called Browning and spoke to him twice. The reserve deputy sheriff later reported to Polk detectives that Browning had asked him for a “finder’s fee” for the photos. According to Plowden, “Browning stated several times, ‘I am in this for the money,’ ” Eleazer noted.
Mosaics wasn’t interested in the exchange, so after Plowden reported the calls to the sheriff’s office, he worked with detectives to make an arrest.
“Together Plowden and detectives called Browning a third time,” Eleazer said. “When Browning was asked what he thought the ‘finder’s fee’ should be, Browning asked for $10,000.”
Plowden offered Browning $2,500 for the digital media card, Eleazer noted.
“Browning agreed to the amount, and agreed to sign a legal document stating he would not speak of the incident to anyone after the transaction was made,” she said.
A time and meeting place for the exchange was arranged, and when Browning got there, he was arrested without incident and charged with one count of extortion. He’s currently in the Polk County Jail.
Browning has previous arrests on his record in Polk County for possession of marijuana in October 2000, and issuing a worthless check in January 2000.
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