Harold James, left, and Sam Baage are accused of embezzling more than $780,000 from Tradewinds Island Resorts in St. Pete Beach.
ST. PETE BEACH – Two former employees of the Tradewinds Island Resorts were arrested Feb. 13 on numerous charges related to embezzling of more than $780,000.
Harold James, 46, of Tarpon Springs, is charged with money laundering, conspiracy to commit money laundering and 15 counts of grand theft. He was booked into the Pinellas County Jail Feb. 13. Bond was set at $735,000.
Sam Baage, 58, of Miami Beach, is being held in the Miami-Dade County jail on charges of money laundering, conspiracy to commit money laundering and 14 counts of grand theft.
According to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s office, the arrests are the result of a 15-month investigation that began in November 2011 after St. Pete Beach police were notified of a possible theft. The Sheriff’s Office inherited the investigation when it took over law enforcement duties for St. Pete Beach in January.
According to Sheriff’s detectives, James, who was head of information technology at the Tradewinds, and Baage, who was resort’s chief financial officer, billed the Tradewinds Island Resorts, 5500 Gulf Blvd. in St. Pete Beach, for services it never received and embezzled a total of $782,018. According to investigators, the two stole the funds between Jan. 1, 2007 and Feb. 16, 2012.
Detectives say the two men created shell corporations through the state of Florida and embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from the resort through these fictitious entities. The men were employed by the Tradewinds from 2005 until they were terminated in February of 2012.
After a 15-month long investigation, detectives obtained warrants for the arrest of the suspects.
James was arrested at about 9 a.m. Feb. 13, 2013 during a traffic stop in Tarpon Springs. Baage was arrested at about 10 a.m. the same day at the Setai Hotel and Resort in Miami Beach, where he was currently employed as a CFO.
Detectives say the suspects used the money gained through their criminal activities to lead “very comfortable lifestyles.” The investigation continues.