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Theft of $300 during ambulance ride leads to paramedic's arrest

LAND O'LAKES — A Pasco County paramedic is accused of stealing money from a patient's wallet this summer while he was transporting the 71-year-old man to a hospital.

Joshua Vitori, 26, was arrested Saturday on a charge of grand theft. Pasco County personnel director Barbara DiSimone said he plans to resign from his job today.

According to a Sheriff's Office report, on July 15 Vitori went by ambulance to a home on Carnation Lane in Zephyrhills, where a man was having chest pains. The man's wife handed his wallet to a paramedic to retrieve his insurance card. A few minutes later, the man was asked for a list of medications and was handed his wallet back, the report says.

That's when he discovered the money — $300 — missing.

After arriving at the hospital, he asked his wife if she had the money. She didn't.

The investigation persisted for months. Investigators interviewed Vitori, who acknowledged having the wallet but said he never opened it or saw any money in it. Another paramedic told investigators he saw Vitori with the wallet but did not see him take any money out.

It's still not clear what evidence investigators linked to Vitori, and sheriff's officials could not provide further details Thursday.

Greg Gude, Vitori's fire chief, told investigators Vitori has had similar complaints against him in the past, the report says.

Vitori, who was arrested while on shift Saturday, could not be reached. He was released from jail later the same day after posting $2,000 bail.

He was scheduled to work Tuesday but did not come in because he had been involved in a traffic crash early that morning.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, he was rear-ended on U.S. 19 by a driver who then fled the crash. Vitori followed until the driver had to pull over because of damage to his pickup. That driver, according to authorities, was New Port Richey police officer Christopher Sutherlin, who was arrested and charged with DUI, two counts of DUI with personal injury, DUI with property damage and leaving the scene of an accident involving injuries. Vitori suffered minor injuries.

DiSimone said Vitori has been with the county since October 2002 and earns about $50,000 annually.

If he does not resign, DiSimone said he would be placed on unpaid leave until the matter is resolved. Because the accusation is related to the performance of his job, he would have to be unequivocally exonerated in order to be welcomed back.

"It would have to be innocent, innocent," she said.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

Theft of $300 during ambulance ride leads to paramedic's arrest 10/30/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 3, 2008 7:05pm]

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