A Tarpon Springs man and another man formerly employed by TradeWinds Resort are accused of embezzling more than $780,000 from the St. Pete Beach hotel, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday.
Detectives say Harold James, the resort's former head of the information technology department, and its ex-chief financial officer created shell corporations licensed with the state and embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from the resort through these made-up companies starting in 2007.
James, 46, and Sam Baage, 58, used the corporations to bill TradeWinds Resort for services it never received and embezzled a total of $782,018, the sheriff's office said in a media release.
Both men began working at TradeWinds in 2005 until they were terminated in February 2012. Detectives say they used the money they embezzled to lead "very comfortable lifestyles."
James was arrested Wednesday morning during a traffic stop in Tarpon Springs and charged with money laundering, conspiracy to commit money laundering and 15 counts of grand theft, authorities said. He was taken to Pinellas County Jail, where he is awaiting trial.
Baage, of Miami Beach, was arrested in Dade County at the Setai Hotel and Resort, where is employed as CFO, according to officials. He is charged with money laundering, conspiracy to commit money laundering and 14 counts of grand theft. He is being held at the Miami-Dade County Jail.
St. Pete Beach detectives launched a 15-month investigation in November 2011 after receiving a complaint of possible theft involving the two men. The investigation was taken up by the sheriff's Economic Crimes Unit last month as the St. Pete Beach Police Department transitioned to the sheriff's office.