Below is a news release from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
ARCADIA, Fla. – Agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Ft. Myers Regional Operations Center arrested Charles Junior Lee, 47, of Arcadia, Fla., on one count of organized scheme to defraud (greater than $50,000.00), one count of grand theft (over $100,000) and one count of official misconduct. Lee resigned his position as City Marshal on May 20, 2013 during a financial audit.
FDLE Agents from the Sebring Field Office began their investigation on May 21, 2013 at the request of the City of Arcadia after then-Assistant City Marshal Matthew Anderson observed suspicious transactions involving checks Lee had written. These checks were made payable to Lee from three police department checking accounts.
On May 21, 2013, a search warrant was executed at Lee’s former office. During the search, investigators examined the checkbooks for the accounts questioned. Investigators found that information on the receipts and checks did not match. In addition, agents found several completed checks, which had not yet been issued and were backdated to 2011 and 2012. Investigators believe that checks were backdated in an effort to cover-up fraud.
After a review of bank records, investigators determined that between 2006 and 2011, Lee wrote 207 checks to himself from the police department checking accounts, totaling $151,100. These checks ranged in value from $200 to $3,000. Check images were not available prior to 2006 so it is unknown whether Lee wrote checks to himself before that time. Lee was elected to the office of City Marshal in 2001.
Investigators believe that of the $151,100, only $6,100 may have been used for expenses related to legitimate police department work. Agents were unable to identify any legitimate use for the remaining $145,000.
In a July 11, 2013, non-custodial sworn interview, Lee told FDLE Agents that he began misusing funds in approximately 2006 to “maintain his standard of living.” Lee also stated that when he learned of the pending audit, he attempted to create fictitious documents to conceal theft from the accounts.
Lee was arrested at the Desoto County Sheriff’s Office around 11:35 a.m. on September 18, 2013 and booked into the Desoto County jail on a $41,500.00 bond.
The Office of the State Attorney, 12th Judicial Circuit will prosecute this case.
Current Marshal Matt Anderson says it is a sad day for the department, and the entire Arcadia community. He says, "it's a full violation of trust. $150,000 that's a huge chunk of change and that hurts, I don't care how long of a time frame it is. Every dime is important for a department our size, that's a lot of money." The department has faced budget cuts recently and is now down to just 14 officers. The department was budgeted for 17 last fiscal year and was up to 20 at one point.
He says now his focus is moving forward. "Keep my head up, keep the guys motivated, looking forward, realizing that is just one individual that's done this, not the department. Everyone's human, we can't control everyone."
He adds, "it's not a good feeling whatsoever. Someone who you work side by side with, someone you've done search warrants with, someone you've done several life threatenning calls with, it hits home and it's hit all of us. I would tell the public it's a sad day for all of us, everyone in Arcadia, everyone in DeSoto County, it's a sad day for all of us and the only thing I can say is we hope we still have your trust."
Lee bonded out of jail Wednesday afternoon.