The former stripper accused of blackmailing former Mahoning County Sanitary Engineer Robert Lyden because Lyden paid for sex and met her multiple times using his county-issued cell phone and car during work hours pleaded guilty to a lesser charge on Thursday.
Gloria J. Prottengeier, 38, of Salem, pleaded guilty to obstructing justice and drug possession Thursday. Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Judge Maureen Sweeney sentenced Prottengeier to two years probation.
Prottengier also pleaded guilty two weeks ago in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court drug possession stemming from an aggravated robbery charge from December 2011 in which she was accused of punching a woman and slamming her head on the pavement after she refused to give her $40.
Sentencing in that case is set for Aug. 5.
Records show Lyden first told Canfield police that Prottengeier and another man blackmailed him for several thousand dollars. Later, Prottengeier called Lyden herself to demand money that supported her heroin addiction. Both Lyden’s and Prottengeier’s stories changed throughout the investigation.
However, both acknowledged to investigators that Lyden used his county-issued cell phone to contact Prottengeier and that he often picked her up in his county-issued sport utility vehicle to take her back to his condo, Barnett’s Motel in Salem or, according to Prottengeier, to have sex in the SUV at remote locations near Westville Lake.
Lyden was forced to resign from his position in August after allegations surfaced that he steered contracts toward a New Springfield businessman Dave Sugar, who was previously convicted of bribing former U.S. Rep. Jim Traficant.
Police reports said Lyden’s wife called police Sept. 15, 2011 and that she, Lyden and investigators met that day. Lyden told police that in February 2011 he received a lap dance from Prottengeier at Tiffany’s Dolls Cabaret in North Lima. During the dance, reports said, they arranged for the two to meet at a motel and for Lyden to pay her for sex.
Lyden said he met Prottengeier at Barrett’s three or four times during March and April of 2011 and paid her about $800 or more each time. In April, a man who said he was an acquaintance of Prottengeier threatened to tell Lyden’s wife unless he paid him. Lyden said he paid the man between $1,000 and $2,000 over several meetings.
A few months later, he alleged, Prottengeier called and asked for $1,000, which Lyden said he paid her during a meeting in the parking lot of the Sheetz gas station on Boardman-Canfield Road at South Raccoon Road. He said he eventually paid her at least two more times.
Lyden estimated she blackmailed him for cash payments totaling between $5,000 and $6,000.
Reports said Lyden confessed to his wife and denied Prottengeier’s request for $1,700 she said she needed for heroin addiction rehabilitation. He also denied her again when she called back and said she’d take less money.
Lyden said Prottengeier then called his wife about 50 times after the phone call. Later, reports said Lyden started recording telephone conversations. Investigators listened to one recording and noted she apologized to Lyden for blackmailing him and threatening to tell his wife.
On Sept. 19, 2011, investigators met with Prottengeier at the Pizza Hut in Salem. Prottengeier told police she met Lyden while working as a waitress at Christie’s Cabaret in Canton. She said she gave him her phone number and they drank wine and kissed in his Talsman Drive condo. She initially told investigators they never engaged in a sexual relationship but that he paid for “her companionship.”
She said Lyden continued to give her money upon her request. Prottengeier told police she threatened to tell Lyden’s wife if he refused to give her money for rehab. She also told investigators Lyden once purchased heroin for her.
Later that day, Lyden reiterated to police they were involved in a sex-for-money relationship despite Prottengeier’s denial. Lyden also told investigators he “met with her in his county-issued vehicle, spoke with her on his county issued telephone and further admitted to meeting her while working on county time.”
Lyden told investigators he may face punishment at his job and requested the case be closed.
Officers and prosecutors, however, filed charges because of the evidence they obtained, some of which Lyden provided when he turned over nine recorded phone conversations and a written statement from Prottengeier admitting she blackmailed him for money.
When investigators told Lyden about the charges, he recanted, saying he voluntarily gave Prottengeier money throughout their relationship and that he gave her about $1,500 when he was “under distress.” The other $5,000 was given to her voluntarily, he told investigators.
BCI Agents then became involved with the case in November and advised detectives to subpoena Lyden’s phone records.
Investigators then interviewed Prottengeier again in March. She told police she knew Lyden as a regular at Tiffany’s when she worked there. She said he called her on her birthday in February 2011 after they swapped phone numbers. She said he picked her up, gave her a birthday card with $300 cash and took her back to his condo where they engaged in sexual activity. Prottengeier said Lyden gave her $200 more while driving her home.
Later on in their relationship, Prottengeier said Lyden told his wife he was going to an auto shop on Saturday mornings, but instead picked her up and took her to Barnett’s. She also said they sometimes had sex on back roads near the motel and Westivlle Lake.
Prottengeier estimated she received about $4,000 from Lyden for sex and as gifts. She again told investigators he brought her heroin once when she was suffering from withdrawals.
Prottengeier said after she threatened to tell Lyden’s wife about their relationship, he became upset and threatened her.
“Lyden became upset and began threatening her, which included him stating that ‘I work for the county’ and claiming that through work, he knew people that would hurt her and/or make her disappear,” reports said. “Ms. Prottengeier advised police after police began investigating this matter, she no longer has contact with him.”