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Marcus Kirby, former School Trustee, Granted Probation

Kirby Embezzled Funds From Lake Wales Care Center, Clients

Marcus Kirby, a former associate pastor at HighPoint Church in Lake Wales, has been ordered to serve 10 years' probation and pay $67,491 in restitution to his former employer, the Lake Wales Care Center, after pleading no contest to bilking two of the center's clients whose financial accounts he was overseeing.

Kirby, 41, who also was a trustee on the Lake Wales Charter School Board, faced up to 3½ years in prison had he been convicted at trial, according to state sentencing guidelines. In the agreement with prosecutors, he pleaded as charged to two counts of exploiting an elderly person and one count of grant theft. In pleading no contest, he neither admitted guilt nor challenged the allegations against him.

Kirby couldn't be reached for this report.

In April 2022, Kirby surrendered at the Lake Wales Police Department after administrators at the non-profit Care Center discovered the financial discrepancies and contacted police, according to police reports.

Kirby, who had worked at the Care Center for six years, confessed at the time of his arrest to using the clients' debit cards and cash for purchases at restaurants and gas stations, and to pay for large cell phone bills, vehicle maintenance, entertainment, photography and utility bills, all dating to 2019, according to his arrest affidavit. He was released from the Polk County Jail following his arrest after posting $8,000 bond, jail records show.

Rob Quam, the center's executive director, said the Care Center has reimbursed the two disabled clients for their losses.

Care Center administrators told police they discovered the fraudulent expenditures after Kirby was reassigned from a transitional housing coordinator to a program assistant at the center's new thrift store in Lake Hamilton. He resigned shortly after the expenditures were uncovered.

The investigation revealed that Kirby had been giving each of the clients small amounts of cash as an allowance, and was using their debit cards and cash for his personal use, according to police reports. He was convicted of stealing $5,455 from one client, and another $18,234 from the other since 2019, the arrest affidavit states. Further investigation after Kirby's arrest revealed he also had withheld an estimated $43,000 in rent payments that clients had given him to pass along to the Care Center, which owned the properties they were renting. That money is included in the total $67,491 in restitution, according to court records.

The plea agreement also calls for Kirby to pay the restitution during the 10 years he's on probation.

During Kirby's plea hearing in January, Quam told Circuit Judge Jalal Harb that he supported the agreement, saying the center wanted the restitution to be paid, but more importantly, wanted Kirby to have the opportunity to reconcile with his family and turn his life around. Quam said Kirby had begun that process after his arrest, and he wanted him to continue in that effort.

In sentencing Kirby, Harb adjudicated him guilty, stripping him of many of his civil rights, including the right to vote or hold public office. He also barred Kirby from having contact with the Lake Wales Care Center or either of the two disabled clients, court records show.


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