A Polk County judge has issued an arrest warrant for a political candidate accused of embezzling more than $56,000 from the First Baptist Church of Poinciana.
Oliver "Dan" Durfey, a Republican candidate running in Tuesday's primary for Osceola County Clerk of Court, worked as a church administrator there for about two years, according to Pastor Jim Rogers.
"This caught the church off guard," said Rogers. "We're very saddened, and we're praying for his family."
Polk County Sheriff's investigators said another church worker found suspicious documents in Durfey's trash can. Church officials later discovered that Durfey had secretly obtained a debit card linked to the church's checking and savings accounts without authorization, according to the arrest affidavit.
Over a two year period, authorities said Durfey withdrew thousands of dollars in cash and illegally rang up purchases at restaurants, grocery stores and hotels. He also bought a laptop computer, records show.
Deputies said Durfey even used stolen church money for his political campaign, spending more than $500 to reserve booths with the St. Cloud Chamber of Commerce.
Durfey has a lengthy rap sheet dating back to 1976, with arrests for armed robbery, car theft, and fraud, according to records provided by the Polk County Sheriff's Office.
On Friday night, an "Elect Dan Durfey" campaign was still sitting in the yard outside the candidate's Osceola County home. No one answered the door when a reporter stopped by.
"There's enough problems in Osceola County the way it is. We don't need someone stealing money from a church," said Kyle Ricker, who will not be voting for Durfey on Tuesday. "That's just terrible."