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Probation officer held in thefts from clients

The Salvation Army employee is accused of having offenders give him cash to pay their fines - and keeping it.

By ABHI RAGHUNATHAN
Published September 2, 2006


ST. PETERSBURG - As a probation officer at the Salvation Army, Cedrick Hayes was supposed to make sure his clients were paying their debts and obeying the law.

Instead, authorities say, he used his position to swindle his charges out of at least $6,849.

Hayes collected money his clients owed for fines, but pocketed the cash instead of turning it over to court officials, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.

Hayes, 27, was arrested Friday morning on a felony charge of grand theft. The Sheriff's Office said he stole from at least 12 people, perhaps more.

Detective David Kavanagh, the lead investigator on the case, said several people lost their drivers' licenses for failing to make court-ordered payments, and one woman had a lien placed on her house.

"The way he was concealing these things, a lot of times it took a while for the clients to come forward," Kavanagh said.

Steve Dick, a public affairs officer for the Salvation Army, said it terminated Hayes after learning of the allegations and paid restitution to the victims.

The Salvation Army contracts with Pinellas County to provide probation supervision for all misdemeanor offenders. Probation officers make sure offenders follow judges' orders and pay fines and other fees.

The organization forbids officers from directly accepting cash or money orders from the offenders they supervise. Hayes violated that order, Dick said, by having them pay him instead of a separate cashier.

Hayes worked at the Salvation Army's St. Petersburg office for about seven years, Kavanagh said.

Salvation Army officials said the allegations surfaced when Hayes had to go to a hospital, the Sheriff's Office said. A supervisor took over the misdemeanor offenders Hayes supervised, and one of them told him how Hayes made them pay him directly.

Anyone with further information can call the Sheriff's Office at 727 582-6200.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Abhi Raghunathan can be reached at araghunathan@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8472.