PCFR firefighter arrested on fraud charges

From Daily Ridge and WAUC 102.1:

On Tuesday, February 1, 2022, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested 34-year-old Desmond James Walker II of Haines City on fraud charges. He electronically deposited a county payroll check into his bank account and then, a day later, cashed the check at an Amscot store.

The investigation began on December 7, 2021, when the Polk County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Division contacted PCSO detectives to report a possible payroll fraud incident. During the investigation detectives learned that in October of 2021 Walker had accessed his online employee payroll information using his assigned username and password to make changes to his direct deposit banking institution.

According to policy, when an employee makes this type of change, as an internal security control, the payroll department confirms with the bank, and then on the next paycheck the employee is issued a physical check. Issuing a physical check allows the payroll department to intervene without resulting in a financial loss in the event the change was not made or approved by an employee.

After making changes to his direct deposit information, Walker received his next paycheck of $2,772.06 on November 19, 2021 as a physical check. The same day, Walker deposited the paycheck into his bank account as an online mobile deposit.

The next day (11-20-21), Walker took the physical check, which had already been electronically deposited into his bank account, to Amscot Financial Services in Haines City where he cashed the check, receiving cash minus the check cashing fee.

Amscot attempted to deposit Walker’s paycheck twice; each time was unsuccessful as it had already been negotiated as a deposit into Walker’s bank account. Amscot then sent a letter to the Board of County Commissioners office stating Amscot had sustained a monetary loss as a result of this incident.

Detectives were provided a photo-copy of the check from Amscot that includes a thumb print of the person who cashed the check. The thumbprint was confirmed as belonging to Walker.

Walker admitted to detectives that he spent both the deposited money in his bank account and the cash he received from Amscot for bills and vacation expenses. He also admitted to discovering a missed call from Amscot on his cell phone, but did not return the call. He admitted to deputies that he did not contact his bank, Amscot, the county payroll office, or his supervision about the double payment.

“Those who work in public service are held to a higher ethical standard. Walker will be held accountable for his actions.” – Grady Judd, Sheriff

Walker was arrested for Scheming to defraud a Financial Institution (F2), Grand Theft (F3), Fraud (F3), and Cashing a Worthless Check with intent to Defraud (F3). He is currently in the Polk County Jail being held on $8,000 bond.