Firefighter arrested for stealing over $220k from benevolent funds

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SARASOTA, Fla. - In a follow-up to a story we brought you Thursday, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office has arrested a Sarasota County firefighter for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Sarasota Firefighters Benevolent Fund.

43-year-old Thomas Rhoades of Sarasota has been charged with one count of felony Scheme to Defraud and one count of Grand Theft in excess of $100,000.00.

The sheriff's office says the investigation began after the president of the Benevolent Fund reported the theft earlier this month. Detectives found that Rhoades, who was the treasurer of the non-profit organization, made numerous unauthorized in-branch & ATM withdrawals from the Benevolent Fund’s high yield savings and business checking accounts totaling $221,507.58 between February 2011 and September 2013.

The organization raises money to assist firefighters and their families during times of crisis and in many cases they also help citizens.

Fund president Jason Wilkins told ABC 7 that services and donations won't be affected and that the organization is already taking steps to prevent a similar re-occurrence. "We're going to have alerts anytime a withdrawal is placed upon the account and as soon as all of this settles down we are going to be looking to contact an outside agency to manage the account so that none of the member will ever have access to the accounts again."