BSO employee guilty of extorting Boca Raton doctor she met on married dating website

Debbie O'Flaherty-Lewis threatened to expose affair unless he paid her $7,000

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A Broward Sheriff's Office employee accused of extorting a Boca Raton doctor whom she met on a website promoting infidelity was found guilty Thursday.

Jurors returned a guilty verdict in the extortion trial of Debbie O'Flaherty-Lewis, 48, after less than two hours of deliberations.

During the trial, Dr. Benjamin Harow testified that he met O'Flaherty-Lewis on the dating website Ashley Madison bills itself as "the world's leading married dating service for discreet encounters."

O'Flaherty-Lewis, who is a BSO child investigative supervisor, was arrested in August 2013.

According to a BSO arrest report, O'Flaherty-Lewis "maliciously threatened the victim over the phone and text messages" and threatened to expose his affair "if she was not paid $7,000."

Instead, the 43-year-old doctor went to authorities.

BSO detectives listened in on a series of the doctor's telephone calls with O'Flaherty-Lewis, who agreed to meet him to pick up the money. Video played during the trial showed her accepting money from Harow.

During closing arguments, prosecutor Ryan Kelly repeated the words that Harow testified O'Flaherty-Lewis told him -- "You're gonna pay, one way or another."

"The doctor begged and pleaded, 'Please don't. I have children. You will destroy my life,'" Kelly told jurors.

Evidence found in O'Flaherty-Lewis' vehicle showed plans for another possible extortion attempt -- a letter to another man demanding money. 

Defense attorney Gerald Kuchinsky argued tbat O'Flaherty-Lewis accepted money from Harow as a gift, but Harow told deputies that O'Flaherty-Lewis used her skills as an investigative supervisor to dig up personal information on him and threaten to expose their affair if he didn't pay up.

Harow said he wanted to end the affair, but O'Flaherty-Lewis did not.

"The evidence that the state brought forth contradicts almost everything that Dr. Harow said," Kuckinsky said during his closing.

O'Flaherty-Lewis, 48, has been suspended without pay since her arrest. She faces 15 years in prison when she is sentenced June 19.

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