The former executive director of a now defunct nonprofit in Southwest Florida was arrested today for allegedly using state funds for personal gain.
According to a report in The Sunshine State News, Robert Michael Eugene "Gene" Bruist was charged with aggravated white collar crime, grand theft, scheme to defraud, and communications fraud. The state's Chief Financial Officer, Jeff Atwater, alleged that Bruist used $900,000 in state funds meant for the now closed Center for Independent Living of Sotuhwest Florida for personal use, including international travel. The money was meant to help disabled people in Southwest Florida.
If convicted, Bruist faces up to 95 years in prison and a $2 million fine in addition to paying the $900,000 back to the state and other victims.
“When someone steals state funds for personal gain, it is no different than stealing directly from the pockets of hard-working, honest Floridians,” Atwater said in a release. “Holding Bruist accountable for disregarding his responsibility to disabled Floridians sends a clear message that we will defend the taxpayers of this state and crack down on this kind of corruption and fraud.”
Bruist's arrest is the result of a joint investigation by Atwater's Office of Fiscal Integrity and the Florida Department of Education's Office of Inspector General. In addition to the fraud allegations, Bruice also has several DUI charges.