CLEARWATER – Three employees of Lokey Automotive were arrested March 6 in connection with a scheme to defraud case after they reportedly embezzled approximately $400,000 from the Clearwater dealership.
Detectives assigned to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Economic Crimes Unit said the three were associated with an off-site marketing business and funneled money to that company by signing and issuing checks from the car dealership business accounts.
The suspects were employed through Lokey Automotive, which includes Lokey Nissan and Lokey VW located at 27758 U.S. 19 N. in Clearwater. The investigation began Jan. 14, 2013.
According to detectives, between June 1 and Sept. 30, 2012, James Surrett, 45, of Orlando, Larry Dubose, 39, of Tarpon Springs and Patricia Lipka, 51, of Ft. Myers were employed with Lokey Automotive and also associated with the off-site marketing company.
Surrett was general manager at Lokey Automotive. Dubose was a sales manager, and Lipka was a controller within the accounting department.
The three used their positions to complete invoices for the third party marketing company, detectives said. They approved the invoices and signed checks payable to the company for their own financial gain. Invoices for nonexistent marketing and mailing services were created and billed to Lokey Automotive.
PCSO issued arrest warrants for the three suspects on March 5. Surrett turned himself in at the Pinellas County Jail the next day. Dubose was arrested on the warrant in Pasco County. Patricia Lipka was arrested on the warrant in Lee County. All three were charged with scheme to defraud.