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CFO Jeff Atwater Announces the Arrest of a Fort Myers Man for Misappropriation of State Funds

7/23/2012

Contact: Alexis Lambert 
(850) 413-2842                                                                  
TALLAHASSEE—Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Department of Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson and State Attorney Stephen Russell of the 20th Judicial Circuit today announced the arrest of Robert Michael Eugene “Gene” Bruist, 35, of  Fort Myers, for misappropriation of more than $900,000 in funds intended for use by the now defunct Center for Independent Living of Southwest Florida (CILSWFL), a local non-profit that was providing services to persons with disabilities in Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties.
 
The arrest is the result of a joint investigation by CFO Atwater’s Office of Fiscal Integrity and the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General.  The investigation revealed Bruist allegedly converted state funds, as well as other funds received from sources including federal grants, non-profit grants and individual donations, for his own personal use to fund an extravagant lifestyle that included international travel.

“When someone steals state funds for personal gain, it is no different than stealing directly from the pockets of hard-working, honest Floridians,” CFO Atwater said. “Holding Bruist accountable for disregarding his responsibility to disabled Floridians sends a clear message that we will defend the taxpayers of this state and crackdown on this kind of corruption and fraud.”

Bruist, former CILSWFL executive director, was charged with Aggravated White Collar Crime, Grand Theft, Scheme to Defraud, and Communications Fraud.  If convicted, he could be sentenced to 95 years in prison, fined $2 million, and ordered to pay restitution of more than $900,000 to the state and other victims.
 
CFO Atwater’s Office of Fiscal Integrity is responsible for statewide investigations of allegations of fraud, waste and abuse involving State of Florida property and money.  To report fraud, waste or abuse of state resources visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com or contact the Office of Fiscal Integrity at (850) 413-5514.
 
Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a statewide elected official, oversees the Department of Financial Services.  CFO Atwater’s priorities include fighting financial fraud, abuse and waste in government, reducing government spending and regulatory burdens that chase away businesses, and providing transparency and accountability in spending.