This was the plan to move George Zimmerman out of the Seminole County Jail and make him disappear: He would be outfitted in concealed body armor and driven away by an armed guard in a rental vehicle that had been checked to make sure no one had secretly placed a GPS tracking device on it.
He would be whisked away to a tourist resort, according to a recently-released “jail escort plan,” where he would then go into the handicapped stall of the men’s bathroom and change into a new shirt, hat and glasses.
Zimmerman, facing second-degree murder charges for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, would then walk to a different vehicle and be driven to a safe house. All the while, bodyguards would watch for paparazzi, “aerial” and “negative counter surveillance” and be on the lookout for people wanting to harm or humiliate their client.
The plan was put together by an Orlando private detective whose company, Associated Investigative Services Inc., last week filed suit against Zimmerman and his attorney, Mark O’Mara, claiming they owe $27,000 for security services.
The company’s invoices, attached to the suit, show that it billed Zimmerman and O’Mara $66,000 for 21 days of protection — an average of more than $3,100 a day — even though Zimmerman was still in the Seminole County Jail during seven of those days.
During one five-day period, the agency billed Zimmerman and O’Mara more than $5,100 a day, the invoices show.
O’Mara said last week that he paid the company $40,000, that the charges appeared to be exorbitant and that he never signed a contract. Zimmerman is now being protected under a plan that costs $700 a week, O’Mara said.
Stephen Milbrath, the Orlando attorney who filed suit, said O’Mara was bound by an oral contract. The bodyguards took on a challenging assignment: to make a high-profile, widely hated man invisible and safe.
Zimmerman, a 29-year-old Neighborhood Watch volunteer, has said he acted in self-defense, but the killing ignited racial tensions and sent thousands of people to the streets at rallies across the country. It prompted hate mail and death threats — and not just to Zimmerman but also to his parents, who abandoned their Lake Mary home and went into hiding.
Zimmerman is now free on $1 million bail, living with his wife and a different bodyguard at a secret location in Seminole County, his whereabouts tracked by a GPS device. It’s not a happy life, according to O’Mara. Zimmerman is jobless, isolated and mostly stays indoors. His weight has ballooned.
The bodyguards’ lawsuit, filed Dec. 21 in state circuit court in Orange County, shows the lengths to which Zimmerman has gone to stay out of sight.
On June 28, according to the suit, O’Mara phoned Chris M. Rumbaugh, an Orlando private detective and former Orange County deputy, undercover drug agent and SWAT team member.
Zimmerman was likely to be released from jail soon and needed a way to safely disappear then receive around-the-clock protection.
Rumbaugh’s company put together the plan, according to the court documents. It’s not clear whether it was fully carried out. He did not return a phone call Thursday; neither did O’Mara. But the plan called for Zimmerman, his wife Shellie, other family members and at times, O’Mara to be protected by a seven-member team of bodyguards.
The guards would take eight- or 12-hour shifts and live in a room next to the Zimmermans, at a tourist-area hotel equipped with a kitchenette, records show. The agency billed Zimmerman and O’Mara for around-the-clock protection from June 29 to July 18, the invoices show.