PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — A Pinellas County employee, who was hired to protect the public, was arrested on bribery and official misconduct charges.
Andrea Wagner was taken into custody by Pinellas County deputies after they wrapped up an almost six-week investigation Wednesday. Deputies found Wagner was making deals with a construction company she was supposed to investigate and cite.
Sheriff Bob Gualtieri called it a classic case of corruption and greed.
"Suffice it to say that this is a tangled web that we had to untangle through an extensive investigation," Gualtieri said.
Wagner worked for Pinellas County as an investigator for the county's construction licensing board for about six years. Her job consisted of inspecting complaints that were made about construction companies.
Sheriff Gualtieri said that's how she got involved with Credence Construction after they were flagged with a complaint.
"So, here is an investigator for the Pinellas County construction and licensing board that walks into Credence Construction introduces herself, develops a relationship with them, and starts referring clients to them," Gualtieri said.
He said that was just the beginning of the corruption.
For about two years, he said Wagner worked deals out with the company that offered them investment loans totaling $90,000 dollars plus interest, promised to keep mum about complaints, and even cited victims who would file complaints about Credence or other business connections they had.
"Under no circumstances and in no way should someone who is investigated and in an enforcement responsibility over a business engage in business referrals to that business," Gualtieri said. "No type of partnership with that business and certainly shouldn't loan that business $60,000 dollars at 10% interest."
According to the Pinellas County government, Credence Construction has been registered with the county since March 2014. The company has had two other specialty licenses through the county since August and September of 2020.
A representative with the county said they received one complaint against Credence Construction LLC and one complaint against a company related to Credence (Kitchen Center Plus) since 2018.
ABC Action News contacted Credence Construction for comment and was told all questions are to be directed to their attorney. Gualtieri said the company does not face any charges at the moment, however, the investigation remains open, and he fears there may be more victims in the wake of the investigation.
A county representative said they are reviewing information about the company and will respond as appropriate.
As far as county employees and their background given the arrest of Wagner, a county representative released the following statement:
"We do have an extensive training program. We are continually investing in training resources. We conduct background checks on prospective employees, we have ethics and procedural training. Our duty is to impartially investigate, ensure due process, protect the public from contractors who do not perform to the standards expected of a licensed professional. The actions for which this employee was arrested do not fit with our core values, our policies, or our standard."
Gualtieri urged anyone who feels they may have been a victim or felt there was wrongdoing to contact the Economic Crimes Unit.