No restitution was paid before the sentencing of ex-sheriff’s finance director

Despite a civil money judgment against her for more than $680,000 awarded on March 24, 2020, as well as a late confession of guilt to a series of fraudulent, criminal activities, including theft and embezzlement of county taxpayer money, Raye Annette Brutnell made a rare appearance in court before Judge R. Lee Smith this week.  This time, the mother and paternal caretaker was sentenced to serve more than 7-years in a Florida prison as punishment for her crimes and was led out of the courtroom by the bailiffs.

Brutnell was arrested on a warrant on November 20, 2018.  She arranged to “turn herself in” to the Flagler County sheriff at 11:10 a.m.  She was released at 7:15 p.m. the same day, after posting a $265,000 bail bond, and has remained free from custody until she was sentenced Tuesday.  At the time of her arrest, Brutnell was charged with 163-offenses.

After her plea agreement was negotiated, she was adjudicated guilty of only five of the charges:

  1. Grand Theft Over $100,000
  2. Grand Theft Over $20,000
  3. Executing a Scheme to Defraud a Financial Institution
  4. Criminal Use of Personal Identification Information
  5. Criminal Use of Personal Identification Information

All adjudicated charges are second-degree felonies, except for Grand Theft Over $100,000 which is a first-degree felony.

One thing Historic City News reporters looked for, something that was conspicuously absent, was any effort towards restitution of the nearly million dollars of stolen money.  Her employer, the controversial ex-sheriff David Bernard Shoar, attempted to reassure citizens that he already had a plan to recover the stolen taxpayer funds — at the same time excluding himself from any responsibility for their loss.

That was three years ago, in late 2018, when a whistleblower in the financial department exposed Shoar’s glaring failure to hold Brutnell accountable to comply with generally accepted accounting practices.

Brutnell’s negotiated plea agreement provided her the incentive of a shorter prison sentence determined by the amount of stolen money she returned.  As of today, it was announced that there has been no repayment to the agency, whatsoever — a fact that did not escape the attention of Judge Smith.

  • According to the criminal punishment code scoresheet, Brutnell could have been sentenced to as few as 45.3 months, the lowest permissible prison sentence in months.  Her total sentencing points were 88.4 months.
  • In view of the totality of the circumstances, Judge Smith signed an order of confinement for 88.35 months followed by 120 months of supervised probation.  Additionally, Judge Smith awarded two new restitution orders, one to Florida Sheriff’s Risk Management Fund for $99,800.00, the other to St Johns Sheriffs Benevolence Fund Inc for $79,531.57.
  • State Attorney R. J. Larizza had to recuse himself and a prosecutor from another judicial circuit was employed.  The cost of that investigation, and related charges, has not been finalized and submitted.  However, expect an additional judgment to be issued for those costs as well as the initial restitution judgment for $685,756.

At just 20-years-old, Brutnell came to work at the St Johns County Sheriff’s Office.  She was hired on March 5, 1991, and she worked as secretary to the former sheriff, Neil J. Perry.  She was married to a now-retired patrol supervisor, then divorced in 2007.  She later married FDLE Supervisory Special Agent Mark Brutnell while he was assigned to the Jacksonville Regional Operations Center.

Interestingly, Shoar worked only a few feet away from the young, attractive divorcee after he promoted her to the position of Director of Finance in 2013. She was paid $108,885 a year, plus benefits.  Nothing has been published, so far, indicating that Shoar was ever questioned as to what he knew and how long he knew about it.  Shoar did say that he was surprised at the enormity of the theft and the number of years that it had been going on, only 20-feet away from his own desk.

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