The latest move to recover about $800,000 in embezzled funds from local taxpayers and the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office Benevolence Fund at the hands of Sheriff David Shoar’s Director of Finance, Raye Annette Brutnell, came Wednesday this week when Shoar brought a civil lawsuit against Brutnell in the Seventh Judicial Circuit Court for St Johns County.
On reading the allegations in the civil suit, Historic City News finds several answers to questions that have been answered with some vagueness or left unanswered by Shoar. Here are some highlights:
- The county attorney will not represent the sheriff’s office attempting to collect this money. Shoar has hired the Jacksonville law firm of Adams and Reese LLP. Shoar is asking to recover reasonable attorneys’ fees in this case.
- Brutnell caused the Sheriff’s Office to make 74 fraudulent payments from several different of the Sheriff’s Office accounts totaling $702,773
- Brutnell caused the Benevolence Fund to make 51 fraudulent payments totaling $80,115
- Brutnell misappropriated a Benevolence Fund check in the amount of $2,868
- Brutnell also caused a fraudulent payment to be made by an unauthorized check for $5,000 in the name of her husband, Mark Brutnell. It was deposited into the joint bank account held with her husband.
- Shoar asks the court to impose a constructive trust over assets, funds, and accounts titled in Brutnell’s name, including but not limited to any pension plans or retirement accounts in her name.
Time is the safest refuge of a delinquent debtor. The more they get, the less you are likely to recover.
At 9:00 a.m. on the morning of January 7, 2019 felony arraignment was held in the criminal case against Brutnell. A year has passed without so much as a single court appearance by Brutnell.
Felony pretrial was scheduled for 2/12/2019, it was continued. Felony pretrial was rescheduled for 4/30/2019, it was reset. Felony pretrial was rescheduled for 6/6/2019, it was continued. Felony pretrial was again rescheduled for 8/13/2019, it was continued. Felony docket sounding was scheduled for 10/30/2019, it was reset. Felony Jury selection was scheduled for 11/4/2019, it was disposed of. Felony pretrial was again rescheduled for 12/3/2019, it was continued from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. then reset. Felony pretrial was again rescheduled for 1/7/2020, it was reset, again.
Judge Howard Maltz has ordered Brutnell to come to court for a pretrial hearing on 2/11/2020 — a full year since she entered her “not guilty” plea on all charges; but, in light of an issue that came up before Christmas, some court-watchers are predicting she will never appear in court in St Johns County.
On December 5, 2019 when the St Johns County Clerk of Court attempted to contact Brutnell to notify her of upcoming hearing dates for the 16-remaining criminal charges against her, the notice was returned, undelivered by the post office.
It seems that on March 1, 2019, Raye and her husband, FDLE Tampa Bay Special Agent in Charge Mark E Brutnell, sold their home in South Beach at Ponte Vedra for $452,000. The proceeds paid off their $355,500 mortgage from Kinecta Federal Credit Union and they moved to The Fitzgerald Channelside Luxury Apartments in Downtown Tampa.
As far as the civil lawsuit filed by Shoar, one of the recitals is that venue for the matter is proper in St Johns County because the defendant lives here. If she now lives in Hillsborough County, she might ask for a change of venue.
As for the criminal cases, State Attorney RJ Larizza has already recused himself. The governor already appointed a special prosecutor from the 10th Judicial Circuit, and because of the delays in seating a jury and hearing the case, another executive order was filed this month extending the appointment for another year. Brutnell’s attorney might argue that a change of venue in that case is in order, as well.
We are continuing to follow this matter and will keep readers informed as new developments occur.