FORT MYERS, Florida– Like a scene from the movie Night at the Museum, nine people who are mostly senior citizens were arrested for allegedly defrauding the Lee County Port Authority out of more than $700,000 in a janitorial contracting scheme, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced today.
The investigation began in April 2018 after an anonymous complaint was submitted to the Lee County Clerk of Circuit Court and Comptroller Inspector General’s Office.
The allegations were then forwarded to the Office of the State Attorney, Twentieth Judicial Circuit, and finally referred to FDLE.
FDLE agents say that 71-year-old Thomas Brennan, a Triangle Services of Florida, Inc. site manager contracted with the Lee County Port Authority, falsified timesheets submitted to the port authority, charging them for hours never worked and even turning in timesheets for “ghost employees.”
Brennan also allegedly added the ghost employees to the overnight janitorial shift in order to avoid suspicion.
According to FDLE, timesheets were also submitted by the Triangle Services overnight shift supervisor, 82-year-old Solomon Cokes, and then approved and submitted to the port authority for payment.
A part-time Triangle Services’ employee, 72-year-old Timothy Cook, also submitted an additional timesheet on a regular basis using the name of a family member to earn extra cash, agents say.
“The intricate maneuvering by the defendants arrested for these charges reveals a concerted effort to conceal alleged crimes against Lee County and the citizens of Southwest Florida, ” State Attorney Amira Fox said.
“I am proud of the involvement of the State Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit for their work on this complex financial crimes case. The arrests announced today triggers the prosecution of these individuals. The unraveling of this multi-layered scheme has involved extensive interaction between the State Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement and government partners; all tasked with protecting our community and accounting for the taxpayer’s money.”
Prior to receiving the initial allegations, the Inspector General’s Office announced an audit of the Triangle Services contract in January 2018.
Following the announcement, Brennan allegedly ordered all on-site timecards destroyed in an attempt to conceal his crime.
“The Inspector General systematically audits county government to improve operations, find and put an end to any fraud waste and abuse and protect your tax dollars,” said Lee County Clerk of Court Linda Doggett.
“I am incredibly proud of the IG’s thorough and professional investigation in this matter. And I appreciate the partnership we have with the State Attorney and FDLE and the outstanding work that they do.”
The other racketeering suspects arrested by FDLE agents are Jeffrey Ashby, 58, Debra Hill, 43, Kim Ormiston, 62, Thomas Quinn., 82, Harry Rodda Jr., 49, Joseph Sucharzewski, 69, and Dario Zuljani, 70.