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CFO Sink Announces Arrests of Escambia Men Charged with Stealing Nearly Half a Million Dollars from Local School

6/9/2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 9, 2009
CONTACT: Kyra Jennings or Kevin Cate (850) 413-2842
 
CFO SINK ANNOUNCES ARRESTS OF ESCAMBIA MEN CHARGED WITH STEALING NEARLY HALF A MILLION DOLLARS FROM LOCAL SCHOOL
 
TALLAHASSEE— Florida CFO Alex Sink and 1st Judicial Circuit State Attorney William Eddins today announced the arrest of two Escambia County men charged with the misappropriation of almost $480,000 in state funds intended for use by Life Skills Center, a charter school for high school students at risk of dropping out.
 
John H. Wyche, 51, president and director of the not-for-profit Escambia County Community Land Trust, Inc. (ECCLT), and Orenthal J. Rembert, 39, treasurer and director of ECCLT, are charged with two first degree felonies, aggravated white collar crime and conducting unlawful financial transactions. If convicted, they could be sentenced to 60 years in prison, fined $20,000, and ordered to pay restitution of more than $480,000 to the state and other victims. 
 
“It is appalling that state funds intended for educating students in need were being diverted to these people’s commercial interests and even their own pockets,” said CFO Sink. “I applaud the diligent work of our Office of Fiscal Integrity, State Attorney William Eddins and the Escambia County School District, who were able to crack down on this theft and make sure state money was being used for the students of Florida.”
 
Documents filed with the Clerk of Circuit Court show that Rembert, at the direction of Wyche, wrongfully transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars of education funds from Life Skills Center charter school account to ECCLT commercial and business accounts.  Documents also show that Rembert and Wyche used the funds to pay expenses of the Land Trust, including salaries to Wyche and others and to operate ECCLT-owned Maison DeVille apartments.
 
The arrests resulted from a joint investigation by CFO Sink’s Office of Fiscal Integrity and the 1st Judicial Circuit's State Attorney's Office, with assistance from the School District of Escambia County’s Office of Internal Auditing. The investigation by the Office of Fiscal Integrity and the State Attorney's Office is ongoing. 
 
CFO Sink’s Office of Fiscal Integrity is responsible for statewide investigations of allegations of fraud, waste, or abuse involving State of Florida property and money.  To report fraud, waste, or abuse of State of Florida resources visit www.getleanflorida.com or contact the Office of Fiscal Integrity directly at 850-413-5514.