One of Mayor Lenny Curry’s political committees squandered about $120,000 last year by falling victim to an elaborate phone scam that police detectives traced back to Nigeria, according to reports from a Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office investigation that included help from the Secret Service.
Our Florida Times-Union news partner reports in May of 2017, Eric Robinson — a Sarasota County School Board member and an accountant well known for representing Florida Republican PACs, including Curry’s — wired $119,797 from one of Curry’s main political committees, Build Something that Lasts, to five different addresses ranging from Wyoming to Ohio and Missouri. Robinson believed he was doing so at the request of a fundraiser who works for Curry. The payments were purportedly for catering and consulting services, paid to people with no known connection to Curry or anyone who runs his political operation.
It turns out, investigators found, a phone scammer duped Robinson into believing he was Curry’s fundraiser, Kevin Hofmann of Tallahassee. Robinson didn’t realize the ruse until the real Hofmann phoned into Robinson while he was on the phone with the impersonator.
Investigators have not developed any suspects in the case.
Robinson made the criminal complaint May 2017, but the details of this investigation have never become public.
Build Something that Lasts expense reports still show the five different payments for catering and consulting services. The Times-Union was alerted about the existence of the investigation by Jon Susce, an independent journalist in Sarasota. The Sarasota Sheriff’s Office provided the incident reports.
Robinson is still listed as the chairman, treasurer and registered agent for Build Something that Lasts.
“We have strengthen the internal controls of our firm and increased the level of training specifically in this area for our employees,” Robinson said in an email.
Detectives apparently had a hard time tracking what ultimately happened to the money. One address where Robinson sent thousands of dollars traced back to a Wyoming resident. That resident told investigators a man named Mark, who he met and developed a relationship with on the internet, told him to expect wire transfers of $19,115 and $19,872 and to mail the money to an address in Converse, Texas.