Former Calhoun County official arrested in alleged pay-to-play scheme
CALHOUN COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials said a former Calhoun County Building Department official turned himself into authorities Thursday for allegedly engaging in a pay-to-play scheme with building contractors during recovery efforts following Hurricane Michael.
Ellie Dowling Parrish, 73, of Altha, is facing multiple charges, including one count of an organized scheme to defraud, 32 counts of official misconduct and nine counts of extortion by officers of the state.
FDLE officials said they began their investigation in January after meeting with Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation employees to discuss information about a possible fraudulent scheme to license contractors. According to state law enforcement, their investigation found applicants who sought registered contracting licenses were given competency cards and/or occupational licenses in Calhoun County allegedly based on fictitious examination scores and other false information.
We’re told Parrish allegedly charged multiple applicants a testing fee for what FDLE agents are calling illegal examinations. They also said he collected more than $4,600 from these applicants. Agents said these tests were allegedly used to obtain an occupational license and/or registered contracting license. State officials said Mr. Parrish allegedly provided fictitious official documents to several dozen applicants that they would then turn and use to obtain employment or a registered contractor’s license. Agents said the suspect also allegedly collected fees greater than the amount he was entitled to charge.
FDLE officials tell us in 2019, of the more than 530 licenses issued statewide, 25% were issued from the Calhoun County Building Department.
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