Investigators of the Hernando County Sheriff's Office allege that three of the former fire chiefs of the now-defunct Hernando Beach Volunteer Fire Department defrauded the local government of over $225,000 in a span of just under three years.
According to investigators, David Freda committed $123,070.14 in fraud against the fire department. Travis Morris stands accused of engaging in $57,780.35 in fraud, while investigators say David Murdock is responsible for $44,706.49 in fraud.
Investigators say that the fraud began in the summer of 2014 and only ceased just after the new year due to an anonymous tip delivered to the sheriff's office. The volunteer fire department was ultimately replaced by the county's fire response team in February after several complaints regarding the department's failure to respond to calls as well as internal allegations that the volunteer organization failed to follow protocol and the terms written into their contract.
Local officials say that Freda brought several Hernando Beach volunteers to Brooksville, leading to the resignation of over two dozen fire fighters characterized as having significantly more experience than their replacements. Those fire fighters who remain have approached city officials with concerns regarding the inexperience of new personnel and safety issues that may arise as a result of the inexperience.
Freda and Murdock were placed on administrative leave without pay when arrest warrants were issued in late September. The duo were subsequently moved to administrative leave with pay earlier this week, but Freda was fired shortly after.
Morris was arrested on September 29 and charged with one count of fraud exceeding $50,000. The 39-year-old Weeki Wachee resident was released later that day after posting a $25,000 bond.
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