HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – As top cop in Hernando County, Sheriff Al Nienhuis has a lot on his plate. On Friday he noticed a group of teens at a business on Ponce De Leon Boulevard in Brooksville and something didn’t sit well with him. He stopped and cornered one of the teens and asked what they were up to.
The sheriff wasn’t available for an interview today, but Denise Moloney spoke on his behalf. She says the kids were fundraising for Central Florida’s Youth Club of America and provided the sheriff papers that appeared to him that his office supported their efforts.
“Not knowing he was talking to the sheriff himself, the piece of paper had the sheriff’s name on it, had the sheriff’s former executive assistant on it,” said Moloney. “And, the colonel’s executive assistant.”
The sheriff stopped the kids at PC Cycles in Brooksville. Paul Horne manages the shop and thought the kids seemed legit.
“They had little yellow t-shirts on with the sheriff’s emblem and stuff on the back of them,” said Horne, who did not make a donation, but glanced outside after he sent the teens on their way.
“Looked out the window and there was a black SUV sitting there,” said Horne. “And the next thing I know the window rolls down and it is our sheriff of Hernando County.”
After making sure the kids were okay and this was not a case of human trafficking or other crime, deputies sent the group packing.
A representative for Central Florida Youth Club of America chalks this up as a big misunderstanding. He says the non-profit organization sends letters out to law enforcement agencies to make sure they know when the group will be fundraising in the area.
Moloney says that doesn’t explain why at least one of the children was lying to the sheriff about where he was from.
“He said, well do you live around here? And the young man said, no, but my grandma does. She lives in Spring Hill. The sheriff saw some red flags and didn’t believe him,” Moloney said. “And I guess he talked to him a little bit further and he said does your grandmother really live in Spring Hill? And he said, no.”