Marion County – The kiosk program, which was created by former Sheriff Chris Blair in 2014, is under investigation by the State Attorney’s Office.
On Friday, May 20, 2016, the State Attorney’s Office for the Fifth Judicial District indicted Sheriff Chris Blair for two counts of Perjury in an official proceeding and one count of Official Misconduct. At that time, Florida Governor Rick Scott appointed the Attorney General’s Office Director of Division of Victim Services and Criminal Justice Programs Emery Gainey as the Interim Sheriff of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.
According to MCSO, 147 of the crime prevention kiosks were removed from businesses.
A kiosk was also removed from the Ocala Police Department.
Ocala Post reached out to the State Attorney’s office, however officials would not release any information citing an active investigation.
Earlier this year, Ocala Post received information about the kiosk program from a source who wishes to remain unnamed out of fear of retaliation.
In the documents received by Ocala Post, the source alleges that an associate of Blair built an internal part of the kiosks. The source says that taxpayer money was used on the kiosks and that, Blair received kick-backs from the associate. In 2014, Blair said that no taxpayer money was used for the project. He stated that the money came from the Crime Prevention Fund, which is funded through fines and forfeiture.
The associate has not yet been named in the investigation.
The exterior of the kiosks were manufactured by Ofab INC., located at 1909 Northeast 25th Avenue, Ocala. The source alleges that Blair did not seek bids from multiple companies before contracting with Ofab and that, Blair also received kick-backs from the company.
Lawrence R. Amyotte, CEO of Ofab INC. was not available for comment at the time this article was published.
The SAO nor MCSO could comment on these allegations.
In addition to the kiosks, the documents state that Blair received approximately $100,000 from Reliance Petroleum Holdings, LLC, located at 1820 Southeast 18th Avenue, Ocala, as an incentive to switch fleet vehicles from gasoline to compressed natural gas (CNG).
Ocala Post spoke with Neil Patel from Reliance Petroleum, who said, “The accusations are completely false. Reliance Petroleum never gave money to anyone for the purpose of switching from gasoline to CNG.”
MCSO Assistant Public Information Officer, Lauren Lettelier, said that two computers were removed from the sheriff’s office by the SAO. Those computers belonged to Chief of Staff Fred LaTorre and Major Don Maines. It was not immediately clear if the computers had been removed in relation to the kiosk investigation. Those computers are expected to be returned to the sheriff’s office in the next few days.
In a statement released by MCSO, Sheriff Emery Gainey said, “As of Friday morning (7/15/16), the Marion County Sheriff’s Office removed all the crime prevention kiosks (147 in total) from businesses, public places and various other areas they were stationed in around Marion County. This decision was made as a result of information obtained from an on-going investigation currently being conducted by the State Attorney’s Office. No further information will be released in an effort to protect the pending-active investigation.”
The investigation is ongoing.