Judge questions extortion charge against TC resort owner

Aug 12, 2016

Bryan Punturo (right) listens to testimony during a hearing in June.
Credit Aaron Selbig

An extortion case against a Traverse City resort owner may not go to trial. Yesterday, Judge Thomas Phillips said he’s not convinced that accusations against the owner of Park Shore Resort amount to extortion.

Prosecutors say Bryan Punturo threatened a competing parasailing business,  saying he would put them out of business if he wasn’t paid $19,000 a year. They say Punturo made statements that he would “crush” or “bury” the victim’s business.

State’s attorney Matthew Payok said Punturo’s threatening statements were caught on email and voicemail.

“Hurting someone, burying someone, crushing someone. I don’t know how, as a matter of probable cause, that can’t be considered a wrongful statement," said Payok in court. "There’s never a business justification to crush, bury or hurt someone. If there is, then basically, extortion would be legal.”

Punturo’s attorney, Jonathan Moothart, says the threats were made to the victim’s business - not to him personally. And there's nothing illegal about business comeptition.

“There isn’t anything here," said Moothart in court. "There’s nothing to brief. There’s nothing more to do. As I mentioned in my prior comments, the people thought they had an extortion case because they thought they had the defendant saying mean things.”

Judge Phillips gave prosecutors three weeks to make a stronger case against Punturo. The next court date is September 29th.