Today Thomas Brennan, 73, of Fort Myers, pled straight to the court for one count each of RICO Conspiracy, Organized Fraud over $50,000, and Money Laundering over $100,000. Each charge is a first-degree felony. Brennan was part of a scheme to defraud the Lee County Port Authority of more than $900,000. The Lee County Port Authority (LCPA) is the government agency that oversees the RSW airport.
This is not a plea agreement. A defendant has a right to plea directly to the court instead of having a jury trial. Brennan is scheduled to be sentenced on May 9th.
Illegal activity was uncovered during an audit being conducted by the Lee County Clerk of Court of the LCPA airport service contracts that began in late 2017. The audit identified possible criminal activity with Triangle Services of Florida, the agency that was contracted to clean the airport.
The audit findings were brought to State Attorney Amira Fox who had the State Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit (ECU) review the evidence. Assistant State Attorney James D. Miller, head of the ECU, along with ECU investigators determined there was evidence of criminal activity. The case was turned over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) for further investigation.
The audit found that the manager of Triangle Services of Florida, Brennan, was putting “ghost” employees on the books. These were real people who it appears did not actually work at the airport to do cleaning. Brennan, would manually add the employees to the automated system since they did not physically, nor in any way, report to work to clock in.
The audit identified employees added to the third shift between the years 2014 through 2017 who did not actually work at the airport. The third shift is the time between 11 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. The employees hired not only never reported to work, they never did any training, and their airport access badges were never utilized.
These ghost employees were getting their salaries billed to the Lee County Port Authority. These people, now defendants in this case, are accused of getting fraudulent paychecks and then either giving financial benefits such as a few hundred dollars per paycheck or personal services like mowing Brennan’s lawn Some of these defendants even got health insurance.
Six other defendants involved in this scheme have already been convicted. In the cases that have concluded, the State has already collected $223,800 in restitution as a condition of sentencing.
Samantha Syoen – Communications Director, State Attorney’s Office