Former county probation officer arrested for taking money, falsifying docs | Crime
Lakeland, FL -- A former Polk County Probation and Parole officer was arrested Wednesday, July 13 after investigation revealed he took money from and falsified documents in reference to probationers he was supervising, without their knowledge.
According to the arrest affidavit, 27-year-old William McDonald III, of Lakeland, was employed by the county Probation and Parole Office from September 2008 until his resignation on May 23, 2011.
McDonald’s resignation was a result of his arrest in April 2011 for domestic violence, which is unrelated to this case. From April to May 2011, McDonald was placed on suspension pending his domestic violence charge. During this leave of absence, other probation officers worked the cases that had been assigned to McDonald.
Through conversations with probationers formerly supervised by McDonald, two probation officers began to suspect that McDonald had taken cash payments from them, which he told them he was using to pay their fines and court costs in lieu of them completing community service hours.
This first raised suspicion because court fines and associated costs are supposed to be paid with money orders. The probationers told the two probation officers that when they brought their money orders to McDonald, he specifically asked them to give him cash instead. In one incident, McDonald drove a probationer to Amscot to have his money order cashed.
Further investigation of his files revealed that McDonald created false documents that he submitted to Judges and the Clerk of Courts stating that the probationers were doing community service in lieu of paying their fines and court costs. In reality, the probationers were not completing community service hours.
At least two of the documents created by McDonald in two different probationers’ files were identical, with the exception of their names.
McDonald’s fellow probation officers contacted the County Probation Director with their suspicions, and she ordered an internal audit on McDonald’s case files. During this audit a third victim was located. The County Probation Director then contacted the Polk County Sheriff’s Office to conduct a criminal investigation.
PCSO detectives found that McDonald took over $1,000 in cash from each of the three victims, and then falsified documents in their files to show they had completed community service hours in lieu of paying fines. The probationers were not involved in this falsification of documents, and were victims of theft by McDonald.
The probationers in good faith trusted that the money they gave to McDonald was paying off their community service hours, court costs, and fines. In fact, McDonald did not submit any of their monies to the court, but instead pocketed it.
Based on PCSO’s investigation, detectives obtained a warrant charging McDonald with 1 count Scheming to Defraud, 3 counts Grand Theft, and 5 counts Uttering a Forged Instrument.
William McDonald was taken into custody in Fort Scott, Kansas, by the Fort Scott Police Department on July 13, 2011, without incident. He will be extradited to Polk County at a later date and will be booked into the Polk County Jail.