BRADENTON -- Federal prosecutors have charged former Bradenton Housing Authority Executive Director Wenston DeSue with stealing more than $276,000 from the government.
One count of theft of federal funds was filed May 6, almost immediately followed by the filing of a tentative plea agreement between the federal government and DeSue.
His theft charges are nearly identical to those of his new wife, Stephany West, who was charged with theft in March.
West , former projects manager under DeSue, pleaded guilty March 20 in federal court. She is due to be sentenced June 30.
She entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors that involves a felony conviction and more than $104,000 in restitution. West's fate still lies in the hands of a federal judge who can sentence her to up to 10 years in prison.
According to court documents, DeSue "did embezzle, steal, obtain by fraud" $276,300 in salary, bonuses and other compensation he claimed to have earned while he was otherwise engaged in personal matters.
DeSue and West came un
der investigation in late 2012. In September 2013, agents from the FBI and Department of Housing and Urban Development-Office of Inspector General raided BHA offices, seizing documents and computer equipment. During West's criminal proceedings, investigators revealed government agents had been monitoring the pair's activities via video surveillance and a GPS tracking device on their BHA vehicles.
DeSue also faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
According to the plea agreement, DeSue is expected to enter a plea of guilty in exchange for no further criminal charges being brought. He must make full restitution of $276,300.
The plea agreement does not guarantee DeSue will not be sent to prison, only that he is sentenced within the "applicable guidelines."
The supervised release section of DeSue's plea agreement states: "The defendant understands ... upon release from imprisonment," supervised release would follow and, if violated, could lead to "a further term of imprisonment."
The evidence states from 2010-2013 DeSue illegally received salary and compensation for hours he claimed to work when he did not. The investigation revealed DeSue was "significantly absent from the BHA, engaged in non-BHA activities during work hours and failed to take annual or sick leave for these absences."
The investigation found DeSue started a romantic relationship with West during the time of the investigation, even though DeSue was still married to another woman and "on numerous occasions, (DeSue and West) spent personal time together during the BHA workday when they should have been working."
Absences include day trips to Busch Gardens in Tampa and St. Petersburg and extended trips to Washington, D.C., and Jamaica. The couple spent time together running personal errands, getting massages and attending movies such as "World War Z," during which DeSue texted a fellow employee: "Need a break."
He took that break on the taxpayer's dime, say prosecutors. They say DeSue frequently arrived late to work and left early, as well as taking 3 1/2-hour lunches. From September 2012 through September 2013, DeSue admits in the plea agreement he missed work 60 percent of the time.
In all, he stole $204,543 in salary and $71,543 by cashing out vacation and sick time that should have been used.
A first appearance in federal court has not yet been scheduled.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.