Former Tradewinds employees accused of $780,000 theft - WFLA News Channel 8

Former Tradewinds employees accused of $780,000 theft

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PINELLAS COUNTY, FL -

Two former employees of the Tradewinds Resort in St. Pete Beach are accused of embezzling more than $780,000 from the resort in a scheme that lasted several years.

Former Tradewinds chief financial officer Sam Baage, 58, and the former head of the information technology department Harold James, 46, were arrested Monday and charged with grand theft, money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

James was arrested in Tarpon Springs, while his former boss was arrested at the Setai Hotel and Resort in Miami Beach, where he has been working as chief financial officer.

The two men are accused of creating shell corporations that purported to do business with Tradewinds. The theft occurred between Jan. 1, 2007 and Feb. 16, 2012, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.

"They were billing the Tradewinds for services they never received, and these monies were actually getting transferred into the accounts for these false corporations that never existed," said sheriff's office spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda.

Both men were fired from Tradewinds in early 2012.

The investigation began at the St. Pete Beach Police Department with a tip more than a year ago and evolved into a larger investigation with the sheriff's office economic crimes unit this winter when the police department merged into the sheriff's office.

According to state Division of Corporations records, Baage and James were involved in two companies together during the time in question. Both the Vam Wash, Inc. and James Enterprises of Leesburg, Inc. companies were dissolved in 2008.

James appeared in front of a judge Thursday in Pinellas County, where his lawyer tried to get his $735,000 bond reduced.

The lawyer, Barry Taracks, said James sat down for hours with auditors and didn't flee when he knew a civil and criminal investigation was underway.

The judge did not grant a bond reduction but said James could request one from the judge who signed his arrest warrant.

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