Four Fort Lauderdale firefighters were arrested on multiple charges of misconduct, forgery, and theft. A warrant has also been issued for a retired firefighter.
Freddie Batista, Steve Loleski, Gregory Jones and Joseph Perri were arrested and booked at county jail after a joint investigation with various agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Michael Reimer, who recently resigned from the department, is being sought.
The investigation into the five firefighters began when a routine audit by the Florida Department of Health turned up a “fraudulent document,” according to a release from the Fort Lauderdale Police Department.
The men had forged Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support Cards from the American Heart Association, which has to be renewed every two years, CBS Miami reports. Firefighters and EMTs with these cards get a 15 percent and 10 percent pay increase, respectively. When an audit found that Loleski's seem to be fake, a investigation was conducted.
Also, the retired Reimer is president of Safety Solutions LLC, which sells firefighter equipment, and the four arrested firefighters have worked for him, according to the South Florida Times.
Loleski was first arrested in August for extortion, NBC 6 reports. He allegedly obtained a recording of a private conversation to use it in a threat against the bargaining union president (see video below).
An anonymous firefighter told NBC 6 that the FBI has been visiting firehouses during the investigation.
Batista faces the most charges, with five counts of forgery and five counts of official misconduct, as he signed off as being an instructor for the courses although he is not authorized to do so, according to CBS Miami.
The other four are being charged with one count of uttering a forged document, one count of grand theft, and one count of official misconduct.
This is a developing story.