Wednesday, November 21, 2018
Public safety

St. Pete woman accused of stealing from ambulance company

A woman was arrested this week after confronted with evidence she stole about $52,000 from the company contracted to provide ambulance services for Pinellas County, authorities said.

Meghan Anne Zewen, 37, of St. Petersburg, turned herself into the county jail Tuesday on a charge of grand theft.

Zewen, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said, has been stealing for years from Paramedics Plus, which operates under the name Sunstar.

Detectives said she falsified information related to her own and others' health benefit accounts and used it to get cash.

"We take this very seriously," said Debbie Vass, chief administrative officer for Paramedics Plus, who stressed that no taxpayer dollars were lost. "The county, our patients, our employees didn't lose any money associated with this situation."

Zewen was hired as the human resources service coordinator there in May 2009.

"She reportedly began this diverting of funds shortly after she started working there," said Marianne Pasha, a sheriff's spokeswoman. "Once confronted with the information recently, she admitted doing it."

Company officials first discovered the missing money during an audit in September, officials said. Zewen was fired that same month, and company officials asked the Sheriff's Office's economic crimes unit to investigate.

According to an arrest affidavit, detectives discovered the following about Zewen's scheme:

*At various times during her employment, she halted payroll deductions for her health care premiums while still getting benefits.

*She entered her husband as an employee of the company when he was not, then opened a health service account for him with company funds. She later drew money from the account via a debit card.

*She put extra money into several employees' health service accounts, then convinced them it was a mistake and that to fix it they should withdraw the cash with a debit card and give it to her to return to the company account. She kept the cash.

Detectives believe Zewen used the money to pay bills.

"There also may be an alleged substance abuse issue as well," Pasha said.

Vass said she wants the community to know the theft "didn't impact any quality care service that we provide."

"Employees always come up with new ways to steal money from companies," she said. "We've reviewed and improved our internal processes."

Records show Zewen was released late Wednesday from the Pinellas County Jail on her own recognizance.

Reach Kameel Stanley at [email protected] or (727) 893-8643.

Comments
Top Hernando Republican leaders say county commissioner should not be reinstated

Top Hernando Republican leaders say county commissioner should not be reinstated

Nick Nicholson, suspended in April by Gov. Rick Scott, wants his job back after misdemeanor charges against him were settled.
Updated: 4 hours ago
Pasco man arrested for 2015 machete attack on driver

Pasco man arrested for 2015 machete attack on driver

Jason Robert Putnam of New Port Richey faces charges of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and failure to appear.
Updated: 4 hours ago
Hillsborough deputies: Video may provide clues to triple murder

Hillsborough deputies: Video may provide clues to triple murder

Two surveillance videos from a nearby property may provide clues into the triple homicide.
Updated: 4 hours ago
Joe Henderson: Johnston's ongoing recovery a reason to give thanks

Joe Henderson: Johnston's ongoing recovery a reason to give thanks

After suffering a serious spinal injury over the summer, Joey Johnston is back home after receiving several months of physical therapy at Atlanta's Shepherd Center.
Updated: 6 hours ago
Teens in stolen car crash remembered for their promise, unmet potential

Teens in stolen car crash remembered for their promise, unmet potential

Two teenage boys died in a stolen car that crashed and burst into flames Monday morning. Those who knew them say they had potential but peer-pressure led them astray.
Updated: 6 hours ago
Carlton: On mug shots, Hillsborough sheriff tries to strike balance on public records that should be public

Carlton: On mug shots, Hillsborough sheriff tries to strike balance on public records that should be public

Does your babysitter have an arrest record? Hillsborough's sheriff is making online access to records a step harder, but not for the reasons you might think. A story of government and compromise.
Updated: 10 hours ago
Troopers identify Brandon man struck and killed after leaving Uber car

Troopers identify Brandon man struck and killed after leaving Uber car

Sheng Hui Lin, 28, of Brandon, died early Monday after two vehicles struck him on Interstate 75.
Published: 11/20/18
Pinellas Park woman, 20, killed in crash involving two speeding pickup trucks

Pinellas Park woman, 20, killed in crash involving two speeding pickup trucks

The woman was a passenger in car turning left as two pickups sped down 102nd Avenue N.
Published: 11/20/18
Johns Pass custard shop manager accused of lewd contact with teen employees

Johns Pass custard shop manager accused of lewd contact with teen employees

The 62-year-old manager of a custard shop on Johns Pass was arrested Monday after Pinellas County deputies say he inappropriately touched four teenage employees ages 14, 15 and 17.
Published: 11/20/18
From a hospital bed, boy recounted Riverview family slayings

From a hospital bed, boy recounted Riverview family slayings

Hillsborough prosecutors on Monday released hundreds of documents and photographs, along with audio and video recordings, in the murder case against Ronnie Oneal III.
Updated: 5 hours ago