The Fort Lauderdale firefighters arrested for what police said was a forgery scheme appeared in bond court Thursday. After his release from jail, firefighter Freddie Batista said he feels like he was targeted. Ellen St. Laurent, a prosecutor in the Broward State Attorney’s Office, spoke about what she said was a conspiracy among the firefighters.
The four Fort Lauderdale firefighters arrested for what police said was a forgery scheme appeared in bond court Thursday, with one saying upon his release from jail that he feels like he was targeted.
“Proud to be a Fort Lauderdale firefighter,” said Freddie Batista, 36, a 14-year veteran who is charged with five counts each of forgery and official misconduct. He had been held on $70,000 bond.
He and Steve Loleski, 35, Gregory Jones, 28, and Joseph Perri, 27, were arrested following an investigation that began when a routine audit by the Florida Department of Health uncovered a fraudulent document, Fort Lauderdale Police said.
"These individuals are alleged to have formed a conspiracy to commit perjury, and that to me shows a utter disregard for the law,” said Ellen St. Laurent, a prosecutor in the Broward State Attorney’s Office.
One firefighter, Loleski, remains in the Broward County Main Jail on $25,000 bond, jail records showed Thursday evening.
A Fort Lauderdale firefighter paramedic told NBC 6 South Florida earlier this year about allegations regarding the department’s training division. Cards listed instructors that were not instructors and rosters that were not filled out, said the firefighter, who did not want to be identified.
Six-year department veteran Jones and 12-year veteran Loleski are facing forgery, grand theft, and official misconduct charges, while Perri, also a six-year veteran, is charged with forgery and official misconduct.
Police say they’re seeking a fifth suspect, retired firefighter Michael Reimer, who is on the run. He will face forgery, grand theft, and official misconduct charges, they said.
Police ask anyone who knows where Reimer is to call them at 954-828-5700.