Former Fort Walton Beach CFO convicted of city theft
FORT WALTON BEACH – Former Fort Walton Beach CFO Brandy Ferris will serve more than four years in prison for theft in the city.
Okaloosa County Circuit Judge William Stone sentenced Ferris on Tuesday to 55.5 months in prison. She had did not plead any competition in January to charges of fraud and money laundering.
A report filed following her arrest on February 14, 2020 indicates that Ferris, a city worker for nearly 15 years, used her position to open an American Express “off the books” business account that she has used between May 2019 and the date she was taken into custody to ring more than $ 50,000 in personal expenses.
A press release issued with the arrest said Ferris attempted to avoid being caught by paying off the company’s account balance with more than $ 20,000 in funds from a separate municipal account.
The arrest:FWB CFO arrested and charged with fraud
Ferris admitted to opening the account to make unauthorized purchases and using city funds to pay off the balance, according to his arrest report.
Documents filed with the court before sentencing show Ferris faced a maximum sentence of 60 years. The state attorney’s office dropped a racketeering charge, which alleges the operation of a criminal enterprise, as a condition for Ferris to accept the plea deal.
Stone’s sentence correlates with the prosecution’s sentencing recommendation. Defense lawyers had filed for a reduced sentence, citing Ferris’ lack of criminal history and the unsophisticated nature of his crime.
The request for deviation from recommended sentencing guidelines also noted that Ferris is raising a high school student and is the primary caregiver for an aging parent.
Ferris’ arrest has brought about changes in the way Fort Walton Beach manages its finances.
Immediately after the arrest, Fort Walton Beach City Council voted to Carr, Riggs and Ingram accounting firm to conduct a thorough forensic audit of the city’s finances. A few months later, the board agreed to pay Tallahassee-based Government Services Group Inc. for financial advice.
Julio La Cayo was hired on June 1, 2020 to replace Ferris. LaCayo himself ran into legal trouble shortly after taking the job. He was arrested in February of this year for impaired driving.