Updated:BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. —
Former Brevard County Clerk of Court Mitch Needelman was arrested on charges of bribery, bid tampering and official misconduct, officials said during a news conference Thursday.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents arrested Needelman, 60, and his one-time business partner, lobbyist William Matthew Dupree, 47, in relation to the BlueWare scanning contract signed by Needelman when he was the Brevard County Clerk of the Court.
Needelman is also charged with official misconduct for allegedly directing employees to use private email accounts to circumvent public records laws, said authorities.
Agents said that in addition to Needelman and Dupree, an arrest warrant on bid tampering and bribery charges was issued for BlueWare CEO Rose Harr, 55.
FDLE said the investigation began in July 2012 when agents received information alleging Needelman approved Brevard County Clerk of Court contracts with BlueWare in exchange for personal financial gain for himself and Dupree. The investigation focused on a multimillion-dollar scanning contract for digitization of Brevard County records even though, at the time, BlueWare had no equipment to scan the documents, agents said.
"It's particularly interesting to note that approximately 75 percent of the records that were to be scanned by the terms of the contract were eligible for destruction and didn't need to be scanned," said Cindy Sanz of the FDLE.
According to a report, the investigation revealed that Dupree introduced Needelman to Harr and BlueWare COO Nick Geaney in January 2012.
Needelman and Dupree met with Geaney at Needelman's home and allegedly told him Brevard County would enter into the scanning contract with BlueWare if a portion of the money paid to BlueWare would be diverted back to Dupree for Needelman's 2012 reelection campaign, FDLE said.
The investigation shows that a portion of the BlueWare payments was funneled back to Dupree for Needelman's 2012 reelection campaign.
In May 2012, a payment of $500,000 was wired to BlueWare even though a contract had not been signed, agents said. FDLE said the contract was signed June 29, 2012, and on that day, the first monthly payment of $90,000 was sent to BlueWare.
Needelman lost his bid for reelection for Brevard County clerk of court. However, FDLE said before leaving office, Needelman entered into a loan with Hewlett-Packard Financial Services for $5.6 million. A report shows that BlueWare received the loan money, although Brevard County was obligated to repay the loan.
"The investigation shows Needelman, Dupree and Harr swindled Brevard County taxpayers out of millions of dollars," said Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey. "Although not the final chapter, today's arrests should present a degree of satisfaction to Brevard County taxpayers."
Brevard County State Attorney Phil Archer's office said it will prosecute the case.
Archer said his office assisted FDLE throughout the probe by subpoenaing records and data crucial to the case.
"This partnership allows professionals to do the job they are trained to do, free from any outside alliances or influences. It benefits both agencies by allowing prosecutors to attack white collar crime in the courtroom with the facts the law enforcement experts have pursued and established," Archer said.
Needelman and Dupree were booked into the Brevard County Jail each on $50,000 bail.