Fort Lauderdale Firefighters Arrested in Forgery Scheme: Police

Firefighters facing grand theft, forgery, official misconduct charges

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Four City of Fort Lauderdale firefighters appeared in bond court Wednesday on charges ranging from grand theft and forgery to official misconduct, according to police. Broward Circuit Judge John Hurley addressed one of them, Steve Loleski, in court. A Fort Lauderdale fireman who did not want to be identified spoke about corruption allegations within the department

    Four City of Fort Lauderdale firefighters have been arrested and a warrant has been issued for one former firefighter on charges ranging from grand theft and forgery to official misconduct, police said Wednesday.

    The arrests were made following an investigation that was initiated when a routine audit by the State of Florida's Department of Health discovered a fraudulent document, Fort Lauderdale Police said.

    Police said the ongoing investigation was being conducted by the FBI, the Broward County Public Corruption Task Force and the Broward County Office of Inspector General.

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    Arrested in the investigation were: Freddie Batista, 36, a 14-year veteran of the department; Steve Loleski, 35, a 12-year veteran; Gregory Jones, 28, a 6-year veteran; and Joseph Perri, 27, also a 6-year veteran.

    An warrant has also been issued for Michael Reimer, a 12-year veteran of the department who recently resigned, police said.

    Fort Lauderdale City Manager Lee R. Feldman released a statement Wednesday, saying the city takes the charges "extremely seriously" and will continue to fully cooperate with authorities.

    "This is by no means a reflection on the more than 450 men and women who proudly serve Fort Lauderdale as members of our outstanding Fire-Rescue Department and who put their lives on the line every day to protect and serve the residents and visitors of this City," Feldman said.

    Reimer, Loleski and Jones have been charged with uttering a forged document, grand theft and official misconduct, police said. Perri was charged with uttering a forged document and official misconduct.

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    Batista is charged with five counts of forgery and five counts of official misconduct. He was being held Wednesday on $70,000 bond, jail records showed.

    Loleski was being held on $25,000 bond. The bond amounts for Perri and Jones were unknown. It was unknown whether any of the men has an attorney.

    Loleski had been arrested in August on charges of extortion/threats and criminal attempt to solicit or conspire after police say he obtained a recorded, private conversation and attempted to use the tape as a threat against another member of the department.

    Police said he threatened to jeopardize an investigation if the victim did not give him information about another active criminal investigation.

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