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Probation officer's scheme to defraud fails, police say

24 payments that 8 probationers gave Department of Corrections officer end up in Wells Fargo account

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MIAMI – Department of Corrections' probation officer Ricky D. Bell could have retired peacefully, but instead he was on the other side of the law Thursday.

Police arrested Bell, 62, Wednesday for lying to probationers under his supervision and trying to cheat his employer when he took about $3,000 in money orders that were supposed to go to a DOC vendor, police said.

After an investigation, Broward Sheriff's Office Detective John Calabro and Florida Department of Corrections Inspector Ryan Nicholas concluded Bell was engaged in a scheme to defraud from Nov. 1, 2012 to April 30, 2014, records show.

Bell "unlawfully altered and deposited 24 payment instruments from probationers under his supervision" and also failed to enter "into the books and official records of the DOC," Calabro reported.

Nicholas said that after Bell retired several probationers under his supervision owed money on court ordered costs and claimed that they had handed Bell the payments via money orders to JPay, a DOC vendor that provides money transfers.

According to investigators Bell was forging the money orders by removing JPay, adding his name and depositing them into his Wells Fargo bank account. The eight inmates affected were Francisco Sotloocampo, Kevin Dechane, Juana Diaz, Jeff Perez,  Cristino Lozano, Hector Hernandez, Waydes McKenzie and Juan Quijano, records show.

Bell was charged with one count of organized fraud for obtaining property under $20,000 by fraud, eight counts of official misconduct for falsifying official documents, and 23 counts of uttering forged instruments, records show. Circuit Judge Raag Singhal set Bell's bond at $33,000.

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