Florida Firefighter Accused of Running Fundraising Scam

A Tallahassee firefighter and his wife, a Tallahassee police officer, have been charged in connection with the theft of proceeds from a fundraiser they ran last year.

Tallahassee firefighter Joseph “Mike” Amison, 43, and Tallahassee police officer Jennifer Amison, 41 are facing charges of organizing a scheme to defraud, failure to apply contributions in a manner substantially consistent with the solicitation, and two counts of grand theft.

The couple ran a fundraiser in 2016 to benefit the families of two Tallahassee firefighters who died recently, and the daughter of a firefighter who was killed in a car accident. Leon County Sheriff’s Office believes that 600 tickets were sold for the event, along with approximately 900 raffle tickets. Additional income was derived from the sale of decals and shirts.

The Amisons sent the families checks for approximately $4000, but claimed health problems were preventing further disbursements. The couple also began several additional fundraising efforts, including one for the families of two Texas State Troopers suffering from terminal brain cancer.

The Tallahassee Democrat quoted LCSO investigators as saying in their report:

  • “The Amisons have been threatening defamation of character lawsuits to anyone who comes forward about this case, and have emotionally manipulated people who have already suffered terrible tragedies into feeling sorry for them or being lenient with them despite being owed money that was rightfully theirs.”
  • “It is apparent the Amisons lived beyond their means, overspending and overextending themselves in the personal accounts as well as on loans and credit cards.
  • “This may have been a factor in the Amisons setting up the charities they did: in order to apply a portion, or all, of the donated funds for their own use.”
  • “The Amisons demonstrated an ongoing pattern of using alleged “health problems” as an excuse to not pay those they owed. – both for the charity and for their landlord., among many others.”
  • “Despite claiming to have these health problems, the Amisons have been able to work for the past several years as first responders and medical records for both Amisons prove that an overwhelming majority of health-related excuses given to the victims has been an outright falsehood, or gross misrepresentation.”

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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