CFO Jeff Atwater Announces Conviction of Fort Myers Man Found Guilty of Misappropriating More than $900,000, Including State Funds
Contact: Chris Cate
(850) 413- 2842
TALLAHASSEE—Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater today announced the conviction of Robert Michael Eugene “Gene” Bruist, 37, of Fort Myers for the 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.
“Stealing from hard-working, law-abiding taxpayers is an intolerable act of selfishness, and I applaud the investigators and the jury for making sure justice was served,” said CFO Atwater. “The Center for Independent Living provided a valuable service to the residents of Southwest Florida, and this man’s careless actions cheated them out of the assistance they deserved.”
This conviction is the product of a joint investigation launched by CFO Atwater’s Office of Fiscal Integrity and the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General after the center was unexpectedly closed due to a lack of operational funds. The investigation revealed that Bruist stole state money, 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.
Bruist, the former CILSWFL executive director, was convicted on three felony charges, which included communications fraud, 1st degree grand theft and aggravated white collar crime. Sentencing is set for May 12. He faces up to 65 years in prison. The office of State Attorney Stephen Russell of the 20th Judicial Circuit prosecuted the case.
CFO Atwater’s Office of Fiscal Integrity is comprised of investigators, accountants and sworn law enforcement detectives who investigate contract fraud and other theft schemes committed against the State of Florida. The Office of Fiscal Integrity utilizes its statutory subpoena authority to obtain bank account and other records to “follow the money” in these very complex investigations. 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.