Five Arrested in Scheme to Defraud State of Florida

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) today arrested five individuals charged with making fraudulent purchases, altering invoices, falsifying billing records and bid tampering. Four of the individuals charged were employed with the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI), an arm of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and the fifth individual arrested was a vendor. Those arrested include:

1) Allen Nelson, 58, Seminole; one count of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) and one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering
2) Melody Oakleaf-Nelson, 45, Seminole; one count of RICO and one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering
3) Luther Wilson, 60, St. Petersburg, one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering
4) Stacy Gilliam, 43, St. Petersburg, one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering
5) David Dauble, 50, Dunedin, one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering

All individuals were booked into the Pinellas County Jail. Attorney General Bill McCollum’s Office of Statewide Prosecution will prosecute this case.

“Our state has an obligation to investigate and prosecute criminal fraud that costs Florida taxpayers. In these times of fiscal concern and difficult state budgets, we should be doing everything possible to root out and put an end to criminal misuse of state resources,” said Attorney General McCollum. “It is this type of public corruption that is eroding Floridians’ trust in their public servants.”

The investigation began when an audit done by the FWC Office of Inspector General revealed fraudulent purchases, invoices, and billing records for items ordered by Oakleaf-Nelson using state funds. In December 2008, FDLE joined the FWC Inspector General’s investigation and discovered Nelson, a facilities management administrator, and Oakleaf-Nelson, an operations and management consultant, along with other employees and vendors, were conspiring to commit the thefts.

Investigators allege Nelson and Oakleaf-Nelson fraudulently obtained $347,000 worth of goods using state funds in order to finance and furnish a home in Las Vegas. Additionally, they fraudulently purchased tools and electrical equipment using state money and sold the items on eBay.

The investigation further revealed that Nelson, Oakleaf-Nelson, Wilson, a facilities services manager, and Gilliam, an administrative assistant, violated Florida’s bid tampering laws by splitting large projects that needed to be done by an outside vendor into multiple jobs and separate bids to circumvent the formal bidding process. They would then award each smaller bid to the same company. In one instance, Oakleaf-Nelson arranged for payment of more than $128,000 to a dissolved Florida corporation, F.D. Wintex, Inc. and split the proceeds with the owner. No services were ever provided to the state.

Authorities say Dauble, a vendor, used his companies, R&D Consulting Associates, Inc. and Krugh Services Corporation to bid with FWRI. Dauble was a long time business associate and friend of both Nelson and Wilson. He often disguised his involvement by signing Krugh Services bid documents with another person’s name. Dauble also inflated bids to ensure that his company, or another pass through company, would be awarded the contact for services.

Agents previously arrested Kevin Piggott, 35, of Tampa, in March on charges he fraudulently used his P-card to make purchases and falsify documentation. He was terminated the day after his arrest.

Nelson resigned from the FWRI in January 2009. Oakleaf-Nelson was terminated in March 2009.

For Further Information Contact:
Heather Smith, Kristen Chernosky or Mike Morrison
FDLE Office of Public Information
(850) 410-7001

Henry P. Cabbage, News Media Director
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
(850) 488-8843