Florida Finance Director for Sheriff's Office Embezzles $700,000
The finance director for the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office in St. Augustine, FL was arrested Tuesday on a warrant accusing her of embezzling $700,000 from the office in recent years.
Raye A. Brutnell, 47, turned herself in on Tuesday to face felony fraud, forgery and grand theft charges linked to what investigators suspect was a long-running embezzlement scheme. Brutnell was fired immediately after her arrest.
Brutnell was making $100,000 at the time of her arrest and was in charge of overseeing $67 million of tax payer money.
WOKV News reports the investigation started on Nov. 14 when two budget and finance employees for the sheriff's office came forward after they uncovered 63 checks totaling $673,422 issued to bogus vendors during a five-year span.
According to an arrest warrant, Brutnell used variations of relatives' names to create bank accounts for phony vendors, forged signatures on checks to vendors and deposited the checks into her own account.
The affidavit says authorities have recovered several documents Brutnell created to track the transactions.
Brutnell says she used the money for car and mortgage payments, her father’s nursing home stay, and daily spending.
Brutnell further stated that she was motivated by "a financial strain on her family and that she did not realize the magnitude of this fraud until she was provided with the dollar amount," according to the warrant.
Brutnell also acknowledged to authorities that she has a spending addiction. Brutnell reported directly to the sheriff. Her duties included overseeing the agency's $67 million budget, payroll, inventory, internal controls, grants and purchasing.
Brutnell started at the sheriff's office as an employee in 1991, she has been the finance director since 2013.
According to the warrant, Brutnell said she acted alone. She said her husband, who is a Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent, had nothing to do with the scheme.
Gov. Rick Scott has assigned the case to Brian Haas, the state attorney for Florida’s 10th Judicial Circuit.
Jail logs show she was released at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday after posting $265,000 bail.
Brutnell is represented by Hank Coxe, a high-powered Jacksonville defense attorney who has handled several high-profile cases, including the murder trial of Cristian Fernandez.
Brutnell is facing 52 counts each of forging bank checks, uttering a forged bank check, and official misconduct, in addition to a charge each of grand theft, organized scheme to defraud, criminal use of personal identification, scheme to defraud a financial institution, and unlawful use of a two-way communication device. She also faces two counts of criminal use of personal identification information.