Former SRSO lieutenant taken into federal custody for allegedly defrauding elderly woman

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A former Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office deputy was taken into custody by federal authorities this week after an FBI investigation found evidence that he'd financially manipulated an elderly Santa Rosa County woman, according to court documents.

Former SRSO Lt. Deputy Scott Haines is accused of defrauding the elderly woman by getting her to give him access to her finances and giving him power of attorney over her.

He allegedly used that access and power to steal more than $10,000 from the woman and to make himself an inheritor of the woman's wealth upon her death.

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Haines has been charged with five federal crimes — four counts of fraud by wire, radio, or television and a fifth criminal charge related to false, fictitious and fraudulent statements.

Haines was also arrested on state-level charges of exploitation of an elderly person or disabled adult, theft from a person 65 years of age or older and unauthorized access of a computer system or network.

Efforts to reach Haines via his legal representation Tuesday night were not successful.

Court documents state Haines was ordered to be released from custody Tuesday following his arraignment and processing.

A date for his trial in federal court has been set for March 7.

Fraud allegations against Scott Haines

A pending civil lawsuit filed against Haines in 2019 accuses him of contributing to the manipulation of a 90-year-old woman with dementia who was at one time "considered to be one of the wealthiest persons in Santa Rosa County," according to the civil lawsuit.

The recent criminal indictment stated Haines was still an active member of the SRSO when he became a part of the victim's property management and realty business.

The indictment went on to claim that Haines devised or intended to devise schemes meant to defraud the business of money and property and "did cause wire communications to be transmitted in interstate commerce."

"Scott P. Haines, wearing his Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office uniform, escorted (the victim) to the office of her attorney and was thereafter appointed Power of Attorney for (the victim), thereby replacing a member of the (victim's) family," the indictment stated.

Scott Haines
Scott Haines

Next, Haines allegedly removed members of the victim's family from the organizational structure of her business.

He allegedly used the National Crime Information Center and the Florida Crime Information Center — "outside the normal course of authority" at the Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office — to look up information about members of the victim's family.

"Scott P. Haines became designated as the 'Payable on Death' beneficiary for the victim's personal checking account," the indictment stated.

Furthermore, it is alleged Haines evicted tenants who were renting homes from the victim's business and deposited rental payments into "his own personal bank account related to the real property of (the victim)," according to the indictment.

In the document, prosecutors stated they found evidence Haines executed financial wire transfers "for the purpose of executing the scheme to defraud" the victim on four separate occasions.

Also, the indictment noted Haines "falsely stated that he did not know what was in the Last Will and Testament of (the victim), whereas, in truth and in fact and as the defendant well knew, the defendant took part in matters of eviction, had rental payments deposited into his personal bank account, and possessed a copy of (the victim's) Last Will and Testament in which he was named."

Haines left SRSO over sexual harassment allegations

Last fall, Haines was ousted from the SRSO following an internal investigation.

At the time, Santa Rosa County Sheriff Bob Johnson confirmed Haines retired from the SRSO on Oct. 31 in lieu of an impending termination after the agency's Internal Affairs found violation of Sheriff's Office policy.

Johnson declined to provide any detail as to the specific nature of Haines' violations at the time of the former lieutenant's retirement. The department did not respond this week to a request for comment regarding the criminal charges.

In 2020, Haines was demoted from the rank of captain to lieutenant at the conclusion of an internal affairs investigation after a female employee accused Haines of showing her a sex toy that he kept in his office and of making sexual advances toward her.

While Haines denied he made such sexual advances, he did admit to showing the woman the sex toy.

According to testimony from his accuser, the woman alleged Haines had come into her office and suggested she do him sexual favors. She also said he came into the office and "gesture(d) toward his crotch without saying anything" and that he had said other lewd comments on at least a dozen occasions.

Colin Warren-Hicks can be reached at colinwarrenhicks@pnj.com or 850-435-8680.

This article originally appeared on Pensacola News Journal: Former Santa Rosa Deputy Scott Haines facing federal fraud charges