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Trial date set for man accused of offering hit-man services

By Staff | Aug 7, 2010

A trial has been set for a North Fort Myers man accused of offering to “get rid of” witnesses in cases against a former city official to the tune of “four zeros.”
Dustin Russell Lofty, 24, is accused of conspiring to commit murder. He is facing two counts of public order crimes, criminal attempt to solicit conspire in capital felony. Lofty is being held at the Lee County Jail on $200,000 bond.
Earlier this week, Judge Mark Steinbeck set the trial date for Sept. 20.
Lofty faces a maximum of 30 years in prison for each count.
According to an arrest report from the sheriff’s office, Lofty contacted former Cape Coral City Councilmember Eric Grill by e-mail and advised Grill that “he could help him with his problems.” At the time, Grill faced charges of grand theft and fraud in connection to complaints filed with the state.
Lisa Johnson, owner of Tropical Twisters Gymnastics, and David Malmberg, owner of Affordable Towing, alleged that Grill bilked them out of thousands of dollars of construction work on two separate projects never completed.
The State Attorney’s Office later stated that there was “legally insufficient evidence to prosecute” Grill on the two charges, but prosecutors did file one charge of making or furnishing a false statement for a document he gave to Malmberg.
Grill is scheduled to go to court on Aug. 24 for the one count filed.
The investigation into the alleged murder-for-hire plot took place over the course of several weeks, according to the report. Grill helped investigators by meeting with Lofty in person several times to discuss the terms of the proposal. They were under surveillance by law enforcement at least once.
The report states that Lofty’s proposition included at least “four zeroes” and $500 up front to acquire the “tools of the trade,” including addresses and pictures of the “subject to get rid of.” During their final meeting, Grill handed Lofty an envelope containing $500, supplied by the sheriff’s office.
Lofty accepted the money, and then was taken into custody by deputies, officials said.
Public defender Kimberly Erwin, who is representing Lofty, did not return a message seeking comment.
Johnston expressed satisfaction toward how Lofty’s case is being handled.
“I’m glad he is going to trial,” she said. “They need to take it seriously.”
Johnston added that she was more concerned about her children and her business after she become aware of the alleged murder-for-hire scheme.
“I didn’t really fear for my life at the time,” she said.