Firefighting dad, son charged
By PATRICK COOPER and JIM ROSS
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 1, 2001
FLORAL CITY -- Floral City fire Chief Lloyd Bedford was arrested Tuesday morning in connection with the January theft of a four-wheeler and a tractor and the subsequent altering of the vehicles' serial numbers.
Bedford's 20-year-old son, Curtis, who serves as a Floral City firefighter, was arrested Monday afternoon in connection with the same crimes.
Authorities have said Curtis Bedford stole the vehicles, along with a trailer, on Jan. 12 from Pemberton's Airboats, 4875 S Florida Ave. (U.S. 41) in Inverness. Lloyd Bedford is accused of altering the numbers.
Both men were held on charges of grand theft. Lloyd Bedford, 43, also was accused of altering identification marks on another's property, while Curtis Bedford was accused of possessing the altered property: a 1997 Kawasaki four-wheel all-terrain vehicle and a 1991 Yanmar 1500 tractor.
Lloyd Bedford was arrested about 10:15 a.m. Tuesday after meeting police at the Citrus County jail. Curtis Bedford was arrested Monday afternoon.
The county has suspended both from the fire service pending the outcome of their criminal cases, according to Charles Poliseno, public safety director.
Poliseno met with the men Wednesday afternoon. "They understood the action and the reason," he said.
Lloyd Bedford's twin brother, Floyd, is assistant chief. He becomes the department leader in his brother's absence.
Phone calls left at the home of Lloyd and Curtis Bedford on Wednesday were not returned. During a telephone interview, Floyd Bedford denied that his brother had been arrested and declined to comment further.
The thefts were discovered the morning of Jan. 13 when Dale Pemberton said he came to his business and found the locks on the front and back gates of his lot broken, arrest records showed. The four-wheeler, the tractor and a trailer were missing.
A man told sheriff's deputies Monday that he had overheard a conversation between the two Bedfords about the stolen vehicles.
Lloyd Bedford, whose voice the man said he recognized, allegedly told his son that he had ground the serial number off the four-wheeler and altered the number on the tractor, the records showed.
The witness who said he heard the conversation, which was conducted by cellular phone and walkie-talkie, told authorities that Bedford told his son that he knew someone who would give them a receipt for the two items.
Sheriff's deputies said Curtis Bedford confirmed that this conversation took place.
After receiving the tip, sheriff's officials said they conducted a helicopter fly-over and looked into the Bedfords' back yard from the nearby Rosko Manor Mobile Home Park, with permission from officials at the park. Deputies could see both the four-wheeler and the tractor, a report said. They then interviewed Curtis Bedford, receiving a sworn statement about his connection to the thefts. Curtis Bedford said he alone took the items between 10 and 11 p.m. Jan. 12, and then brought the tractor and four-wheeler to his house and gave the trailer to a friend, the records show.
He also told police that his father knew about the thefts and had altered the tractor and four-wheeler to make them less easy to identify.
Lloyd Bedford ground off the serial number on the four-wheeler and altered the number on the tractor, his son said, according to the records. Curtis also said they had repainted parts of the tractor and removed parts and decals off the four-wheeler to further change their appearance.
The Bedford family has been the backbone of Floral City's volunteer fire service.
Many Bedfords have donned Floral City gear and fought fires. Lloyd and Floyd's father, Ralph, was chief for 24 years until he died in November 1989. Floyd took his place as chief.
Floyd Bedford was arrested a short time later, accused of deliberately setting fire to a Floral City field. A jury found him guilty in 1990, despite his claim that the blaze started by accident.
Lloyd later became chief. Floyd reclaimed a spot on the department roster in 1994, after then-Gov. Lawton Chiles and the Cabinet restored his civil rights.
Lloyd Bedford has had legal trouble of his own. In the mid 1980s, authorities accused him and Floyd of stealing boat equipment. Both men were law officers at the time -- Lloyd with the Sheriff's Office in Citrus County, Floyd with the Sheriff's Office in Marion County.
The brothers and a third defendant accepted plea bargains in 1986 before their scheduled trials.
Dale Pemberton said he was surprised to hear about the arrests because he was close to the Bedford family and they lived nearby. "It totally upsets me," he said.
Pemberton said Curtis Bedford worked for him at Airboats about a year or two ago. "I've known him since he was in junior high."
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