JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An employee of the now-defunct St. Johns River Power Park who embezzled $8,500 from the power plant's gym will avoid jail time through a pre-trial intervention program, according to a report released Monday by Jacksonville's Office of Inspector General.
Dwight Aron Samuel, 57, of Orange Park, is charged with felony grand theft, court records show. In lieu of prosecution, he agreed to pay back the stolen funds, plus investigative and court costs, for a total of $15,074.80, and complete 100 hours of community service.
The inspector general's office began investigating Samuel in December 2017 after the JEA forwarded an anonymous tip that alleged he stole money from the employee-operated gym at the coal-fired plant co-owned by the JEA.
Samuel managed finances for the gym, funded by dues deducted from members' paychecks, since 2009. An audit found 33 transfers between his personal account and the gym's bank account totaling $7,695, in addition to $805 in direct withdrawals from the gym account.
Confronted with the findings, Samuel acknowledged taking funds from the gym account for his personal use, saying he "borrowed" the money and planned to return it, according to the report. He was arrested Dec. 29 after signing a confession.
Samuel retired Jan. 5, the same month the power plant was decommissioned and closed. He signed a pretrial intervention agreement Feb. 9 and handed over a cashier's check totaling $15,074.80 later that month.
At the advice of the inspector general's office, the JEA is in the process of crafting a policy to secure reimbursement or restitution from employees found to have stolen from, or defrauded, the publicly-owned utility. That policy is expected to be complete in June.