FOP Foundation moves on with frozen accounts

Board members try to figure out how to continue charitable efforts

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Fraternal Order of Police in Jacksonville believes it was a pawn in an Internet gambling scheme.

Investigators say FOP President Nelson Cuba and Vice President Robbie Freitas used an elaborate shell game to hide thousands of dollars. And they said both used the the charitable arm of the FOP as a shield to hide what they were doing.

In the past 24 hours they learned some of the proceeds of what investigators call illegal gambling was funneled into the Jacksonville FOP Foundation.

"To be very blunt, what happened is two individuals doing something on their own," FOP attorney Paul Daragiati said. "The FOP organization is a great organization, has done great things for the city and has done great things for the officers that work for the city and will continue doing that."

The board of the FOP Foundation rarely meets, but came together Thursday to remove Cuba and Freitis from it's leadership and to begin trying to iron out the problems created by the Allied Veterans of the World scheme.

The board's first act was to install long-time member and Jacksonville police officer David Stevens as its new president.

Board member Joel Holley says foundation's bank account is now frozen as it's biggest annual fundraiser, Guns N' Hoses -- a boxing tournament between the police and fire departments -- is next month.

"We have to figure out how we are going to do Guns N' Hoses, because it's very important for us to do the charitable events," Holley said. "This is a very good board with good intentions, and it wants to do things right."

Now the foundation has to determine how much money it really has and what money it can work with.

"As far as we know right now, there is no money unaccounted for," Daragiati said. "We received donations from Allied Veterans just as we received other 501c3 (nonprofit organizations) in the past. And the donations we receive we do charitable works with it."

Tax records show the foundation has paid out thousands in grants to charities. For example, it's paid $25,000 to the American Heart Association, $10,000 to the Justice Coalition, $5,000 to the Special Olympics, and $58,500 to the Police Athletic League.

FOP is hoping these donations will continue, but its own probe will help determine what's next.

"Right now, like I said, we are conducting our own internal investigation," Daragiati said. "Once we determine exactly to make sure that everything is proper and in its place, I am sure we will continue conducting the same as we have in the past, donating to charities and taking care of charitable works around the city."

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