Former volunteer fire department chiefs arrested for organized fraud

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Former volunteer fire department chiefs arrested for organized fraud

October 10, 2017 - 04:29

On Sept. 29, 2017 we received notification from the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office that three former Hernando Beach Volunteer Fire Department Fire Chiefs were arrested on organized fraud charges. They include the City of Brooksville Fire Chief David Freda, a City of Brooksville Fire Captain David Murdock and Travis Morris, a current FEMA employee.

Their arrests stem from a 7 month long investigation of the volunteer department’s misappropriation of funds. The investigation began just as the Hernando Beach Volunteer Fire Department was dissolved ( February 14, 2017).

Lack of financial audits detailing expenditures was one reason the county cited for terminating the department. The county had requested these auditing documents for a period of two years. Several other safety related reasons were given such as inconsistent dispatch procedures and the lack of advanced life support services.

Since 2016, the volunteer department had three changes in fire chiefs. Currently Hernando County Fire Rescue serves Hernando Beach.
The report released from the Sheriff’s Office states,

“Today, detectives effected arrest warrants on the following three former Hernando Beach Volunteer Fire Chiefs.

Current City of Brooksville Fire Chief and former HBVFD Chief David Freda W/M was arrested at 10:30 p.m. at the 7-11 at County Line Road and US 19 as a result of a traffic stop.

Current City of Brooksville Fire Captain and former HBVFD Chief David Murdock W/M was arrested from his secondary place of employment, Bayfront Health Dade City.
Current FEMA employee and former HBVFD Chief Travis Morris W/M was arrested from the Hernando County Emergency Operations Center.

Charges are as follows:

- David Freda
- Organized Fraud More than $50,000 (1st Degree Felony)
- Bond - $25,000

- David Murdock
- Organized Fraud More than $50,000 (1st Degree Felony)
- Bond - $25,000

- Travis Morris
- Organized Fraud More than $20,000 (2nd Degree Felony)
- Bond - $15,000.”

Arrests of Freda and Murdock were made in Pasco County and each were processed by the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.

The Hernando Sun was able to obtain warrant information for Travis Morris. There was a delay in accessing the warrant documentation for Freda and Murdock since the arrests occurred in Pasco County.

The warrant for Morris states that between Oct. 20, 2014 and Dec. 14, 2017, Travis Morris

“Did then and there engage in a scheme or operation of fraud or misrepresentation, whereby the said defendant, Travis Edward Morris obtained property of an aggregate value of fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) or more from one or more persons or entity, to-wit: $57,780.35 of tax payer dollars from the Board of County Commissioners and or property owners and taxpayers of Hernando Beach, FL and the co-op subdivision of Forest Glen and or Hernando Beach Volunteer Fire Department in Hernando County, FL... ”

Because the investigation has not been concluded, investigation documents were not available at the time of this report.

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