Cops Search for 4 Men Accused of Extorting Former Washington State Lawmaker

Police issued arrest warrants Wednesday for four men accused of trying to extort money from a former state legislator who resigned his post after an affair with one of the accused became public.

Spokane County prosecutors contend in court documents that Cody Castagna and three others attempted to blackmail former Rep. Richard Curtis in October.

Curtis, a Republican, told a newspaper in his southwest Washington district shortly after the story broke that sex was not involved in what he said was an extortion attempt. He also declared he was not gay.

But in police reports, Curtis said he was being extorted by Castagna, who he had sex with at a hotel room in Spokane, where Curtis was attending a GOP retreat. Castagna has denied wrongdoing and contended Curtis reneged on a promise to pay $1,000 for sex.

Castagna is charged with three counts of second-degree theft of a credit card, one count of second-degree extortion and one count of conspiracy to commit second-degree extortion.

The other three men — Castagna's brother Joseph L. Castagna, Robert H. Fletcher and Brandon D. Burchell — have been charged with second-degree extortion and conspiracy to commit second-degree extortion.

Bond has been set in Spokane County Superior Court at $7,500 for each of the four.

Cody Castagna's attorney, David Partovi, did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment left by The Associated Press.

Partovi told The Spokesman-Review newspaper he would fight the charges against his client, and that the money his client sought from Curtis was not "extortion money. It was prostitution money."

Attempts to contact the others implicated in the case were not immediately successful. There were no listed telephone numbers for Joseph Castagna, Fletcher or Burchell.

According to court documents, Curtis met Cody Castagna in an adult book store and then at a hotel. Castagna told police he agreed to have unprotected sex for $1,000, but Curtis then refused to pay.

Later that evening, Curtis woke up and found that Castagna had left the room. His billfold, credit cards and Washington State Legislature identification were missing, prosecutors allege. Castagna later called Curtis, demanded $1,000 and threatened to expose him if he did not pay. Curtis left money at the hotel's front desk for Castagna, and Fletcher picked up the money, prosecutors allege.

Castagna demanded additional money from Curtis, and Joseph Castagna and Burchell helped Cody plan the pickup of the additional money, court documents state. Curtis called police to complain he was being blackmailed.

Curtis denied offering to pay Castagna for sex, but acknowledged giving him $100 for "gas money," police reports said.

Authorities sent out a news release Monday asking for potential past victims of Castagna to come forward.

"There were multiple threats and multiple payoffs in this instance and it just seems like this was not the first time," police Sgt. Joe Peterson said. "And we've been told by other people that this is not the first time the suspects in this case have done this type of thing."

Curtis, a married father who voted against gay-rights bills in the Legislature, resigned his office a few days after the incident became public. He is cooperating with investigators and will not be charged, deputy prosecuting attorney Larry Steinmetz said.