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Organized theft ring busted in Brevard schools

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BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – A Brevard Public Schools fleet-maintenance foreman has been arrested in connection with what deputies say is an "organized theft ring" that defrauded taxpayers.

News 6 partner Florida Today reports that authorities found Edward Strobush, 57, and others ordered tools and truck and motorcycle parts on behalf of the school district, then sold the goods online and kept the proceeds.

Authorities said more arrests are expected in the investigation, which was launched in December by the school superintendent and an economic-crimes task force formed by the sheriff and state attorney’s office to tackle corruption.

Strobush was arrested Thursday and charged with grand theft, dealing in stolen property and scheming to defraud. A search of his home found enough publicly purchased "inventory" that deputies had to use a supply truck to haul it away, the sheriff’s office said.

The total value of tools and parts purchased by the school district employees is unclear. Deputies said it is unknown how many people were involved as the investigation continues.

“This case is the direct result of our new school board superintendent researching and evaluating the various accountings of departments within the Brevard County School system," Sheriff Wayne Ivey said in a statement. "Once evidence of potential wrong-doing was uncovered, Dr. Blackburn immediately requested the Brevard County Sheriff's Office Economic Crimes Unit to conduct an in-depth and thorough investigation of potential theft and fraud by school board employees. Our Economic Crimes Task Force did an incredible job in conducting the investigation which identified numerous suspects in a large scale theft and fencing operation.

"This case exemplifies why our Economic Crimes Task Force was initially created and the importance of the partnership between the Brevard County Sheriff's Office, our entire law enforcement community and Brevard Public Schools," Ivey said. "Of significance, the School Board has contracted with the Sheriff’s Office to fund a full-time supervisor and agent to work at the School Board and provide security services for the thousands of students, educators, volunteers and employees in Brevard County."

The Economic Crimes Task Force identified numerous suspects in a large scale theft and fencing operation, deputies said.

The school superintendent’s office triggered the investigation after Blackburn received a tip that fleet-maintenance employees were possibly stealing public property.

The school fleet maintenance department, based in Cocoa, repairs and maintains district buses, cars and heavy equipment.

Deputies said Strobush was taken to the Brevard County Jail with a $12,000 bond.

Anyone with information about the Investigation is asked to call Brevard County Sheriff's Office Economic Crimes Task Force Agent Harry Bermudez at 321-633-8410 or Crimeline at 800-423-TIPS (8477). Deputies said all information to Crimeline is confidential and tipsters may be eligible for a reward.

Read more at FloridaToday.com.