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CFO Jeff Atwater Announces Sentencing of Fort Myers Man Who Stole More than $900,000 in State Funds Intended for Floridians with Disabilities

5/13/2014

Contact: Chris Cate
(850) 413- 2842
                                                                    
TALLAHASSEE—Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater today announced that Robert Michael Eugene “Gene” Bruist, 37, of Fort Myers, was sentenced to 39 years in prison for stealing more than $900,000 intended for the now defunct Center for Independent Living of Southwest Florida. The Center was a Fort Myers non-profit that was provided services to persons with disabilities in Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties.
 
“Using state funds intended to assist Floridians with disabilities for your own financial gain is an intolerable act of fraud that will not be tolerated,” said CFO Atwater. “This sentencing is a demonstration of our aggressive efforts to make sure those who commit fraud are punished for their crimes.”
 
Bruist’s conviction is the result 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 Center for Independent Living of Southwest Florida’s former executive director, was convicted of aggravated white collar crime, grand theft and communications fraud. He was sentenced to 39 years in prison – 17 years each for the grand theft and white collar crime charges and an additional five years for the communications fraud charge, each to be served consecutively. The State Attorney’s Office for 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.
 
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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.