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Ex-deputy faces felony charge for misusing PAL funds, officials say

Sheriff: Sgt. Robert Gober III spent PAL money on NBA tickets, sunglasses

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – A former St. Johns County deputy has been charged with a third-degree felony after authorities say he misused his Police Athletic League debit card to pay for personal expenses.

Robert Gober III resigned amid an investigation that began in September when members of the county's PAL organization raised concerns that the children's nonprofit's money was being misused, according to an offense report.

The State Attorney's Office announced Friday that Gober has been charged with an organized scheme to defraud.

Gober surrendered himself Friday at the Putnam County Jail.

According to the offense report, there were ten separate instances in which Gober used his PAL debit card to pay for personal expenses, including NBA tickets, sunglasses, car repairs, bike repairs and fantasy football draft boards.

Records show the purchases began in 2013 and continued on and off until the investigation began in September.

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said these accusations might have an impact on more than just the Gober.

“Unfortunately, this is how policies change. When somebody ... does something that appears to be corrupt, then they change the policy for more accountability. That's just something that happens in business and in law enforcement also,” Smith said.

The St. Johns County Sheriff's Office's report on the investigation revealed many instances of confusion over how money was collected, counted and deposited into the league’s accounts. Investigators said there were many incidents in which there were "questionable" expenditures in the PAL accounts. 

“Whenever they are spending money, they need more paperwork, more accountability to show what they are spending the money on," Smith said.

The criminal investigation found that Gober had purchased items for personal use in the amount of $1,302.89 using a PAL debit card, Sheriff David Shoar said.

Investigators said, “Robert’s belief appears to be that if he can relate any expenditure to PAL or as a benefit to PAL no matter how inappropriate it appears or how it benefits himself, it is a justified expense.”

In addition to the report on its investigation, the Sheriff's Office also released dozens of pages from Gober's file, which included letters of thanks and awards that he had received over the years.

Gober, who had been involved with the county’s PAL organization for nearly a decade and most recently served as its executive director, was removed from the position and separated from the agency.

“If he can't be trusted with money, can he be trusted as a law enforcement officer serving the community?” Smith said. “People put a lot of trust in law enforcement, and now that it's known that he stole money, that trust is gone.”

Gober was released on his own recognizance after turning himself in. A spokesman for the sheriff’s office said the agency had no further comment on the case now that it is in the hands of the State Attorney's Office.