POINCIANA — Oliver “Dan” Durfey, an administrator at a church in Poinciana and a candidate for Osceola County Clerk of Courts, is wanted for embezzlement of church funds.
Now, just three days before the Aug. 14 Florida primary, Polk County Sheriff’s deputies got a warrant for the arrest of Durfey, 54, who lives at 669 Deauville Court in Kissimmee, and is asking for the public’s help in finding him.
Once taken into custody, Durfey will be facing charges that include one count of scheming to defraud, one count of grand theft, and one count of the illegal use of a credit card — all charges linked to his position as the church administrator for the First Baptist Church of Poinciana.
It was in that position, detectives say, that Durfey used the church’s two checking accounts and one savings account from April 2010 to June 2012 for his own personal use. Although Durfey lives in Osceola County, the church at 601 Walnut St. is located on the Polk County side of Poinciana.
According to Polk detectives, Durfey obtained a debit card for the account without the church’s knowledge or permission, then used it during a 26-month time frame. Bank records indicate Durfey had taken more than $56,000 from the church using the debit card for transactions and withdrawals — or “stolen,” as the Polk County Sheriff’s Office noted in the affidavit.
According to the report, a church trustee found suspicious documents in Durfey’s trash can and showed them to the senior pastor, Jim Rogers. Church employees began checking the bank accounts and discovered Durfey had been using it for non-church business for months.
The affidavit concluded that Durfey had used the church’s account “with the intent to defraud the church.”
In addition to a long list of purchases made at, among other places, Wal-Mart, Race Trac, Wasabi Buffet, Little Caesars, Cumberland Farms, Loves Travel, the Hampton Inn Orlando, the St. Cloud Chamber of Commerce, Cattle Ranch Steak House and Pinch a Penny, detectives also learned that Durfey used some of the church funds on his campaign for Clerk of Courts in Osceola County.
“Durfey used church funds to pay for two booths at political venues for his campaign,” noted Stephanie Mier, public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, in her report on the case.
“Durfey’s on-line campaign treasurer’s report shows two $5,000 ‘loans’ from Dan Durfey,” Mier noted, which were dated April 2 and June 1 this year.
The investigation also concluded that Durfey withdrew $5,000 from the church’s checking account on April 2 and then withdrew $9,000 from the church’s savings account on May 31, Mier noted.
On his campaign Web site, the Republican candidate describes himself as “trustworthy” and highlights his position at the Poinciana church, while also noting “I have met, served, and interacted with up to 400 people per day and realize the importance of being a public servant. With this vast knowledge and experience, I have learned to be responsible for providing all people timely and appropriate service in an environment that is customer-focused, data-driven, process oriented, team centered and sensitive to human diversity.”
He also posted photos of himself posing with Osceola County Sheriff Bob Hansell and Florida’s Lieutenant Gov. Jennifer Carroll.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office says his criminal arrest history dates back to 1976, when he was arrested by the Miami-Dade Police Department for carrying a concealed weapon and loitering and prowling, and continued from there to include arrests for forgery, concealing stolen property and fraud by illegal use of a credit card in 1977, vehicle theft in 1978 (both in Miami), dealing in stolen property in 1981 (Mount Dora), robbery and battery in 1984 (Miami), burglary in 1986 (Eustis), and fraudulently obtaining unemployment compensation in 1996 in Osceola County.
Anyone with information on Durfey’s whereabouts is being asked to call the Polk County Sheriff’s Office at 863-298-6200.
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