LEE COUNTY, Fla.- The former executive director of a charity to help the disabled is under arrest and behind bars. State officials say Robert Bruist stole almost $1 million in state and federal money.
Right now, Robert Micheal Eugene Bruist, known as Gene, is in the Lee County Jail. He used to be in charge of the Center for Independent Living of Southwest Florida, but state officials say he misappropriated $900,000 to fund an extravagant lifestyle.
A joint investigation by the chief financial officer's Office of Financial Integrity and the Department of Education's Inspector general claims that Bruist converted state funding, federal grants, non-profit grants and personal donations for his own use on things like international travel.
The Center for Independent Living of Southwest Florida he ran is now closed. It provided services to people with disabilities across Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties.
Florida's chief financial officer Jeff Atwater says, stealing state money is no different that stealing from the hands of honest Floridians. Holding Bruist accountable he says will send a clear message the state will crackdown on this type of fraud.
The charges against Bruist include grand theft, scheme to defraud and aggravated white collar crime. A conviction could mean 95 years in prison, a $2 million fine and repaying the $900,000 he's accused of stealing.