DADE CITY — Daren Randall Trusty was found guilty Tuesday of stealing more than $20,000 from the travel agency where he worked and two of its clients.
But he wasn't there for the verdict.
"We'll have a conversation later about him not being here," Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa told jurors in regard to Trusty, who was free on bail. He drove away after the six-man, six-woman jury reached its verdict after an hour of deliberations.
Then Siracusa issued a bench warrant for Trusty's arrest.
Trusty, who has at least three felonies on his record, was in court for most of his two-day trial. He testified Tuesday that he had reasonable explanations for the thousands of dollars that were put into his bank account and expenditures that showed up on his corporate credit card.
He said his former boss, Julie Illes, had him use his personal accounts to handle business transactions. He said she did not reimburse him for several.
"She still owes me money," he testified.
The 46-year-old was found guilty of scheming to defraud his employer, A World of Adventures in Wesley Chapel, and clients Susan Rapp and Lawrence Walter.
Prosecutors said he told the clients he could offer them discounts or upgrades if they paid with an American Express Platinum credit card. They didn't have one, so they either paid cash or wrote checks to Trusty directly.
They never took the trips or got their money refunded.
Trusty testified that he had health problems that forced him to cancel one of the trips he planned to take with Rapp and her husband. He said that after he was fired from the travel agency in October 2010 after working there six months, Mrs. Rapp told him to keep part of the $17,000 she had paid him for trips.
But Assistant State Attorney Phil Matthey questioned that claim.
"That's nonsense," he said, pointing out that the Rapps had later gone to small claims court to recover the money. He also noted that Trusty's bank accounts did not show payment of any medical bills.
Trusty's attorney, Marie Mabry, asked Trusty about some deposits into his account, including one for $20,000. He said it was a gift from his parents. She questioned how deputies could tell his deposits were not from legitimate sources.
But Matthey pointed out that the deposit was made after Trusty was fired in November of 2010.
"He lived a lavish lifestyle, and his income couldn't support it," he said.
Trusty — once he's found and arrested — will be sentenced Oct. 25. He faces a maximum of 15 years in prison.