MARCO ISLAND, Fla. – The owner of a Marco Island landscaping company, Albert Benaroch, was arrested for allegedly stealing more than $13,000 worth of red mulch from Collier County.
More than 6,100 bags of the mulch were returned after a month-long investigation.
“They would fill in work orders for the county, the county would supply the mulch. This landscape business as well as others would complete work orders throughout the county,” Sergeant Mark Williamson with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) said.
The investigation started when the Collier County Growth Management Department’s Road Maintenance Division received a tip that there were 100 county-owned bags of mulch at a site for his company on James Road.
“According to the county they were supposed to return any materials that were unused once a work order was completed,” Sgt. Williamson said.
Each pallet has 70 bags, each bag costs county taxpayers $2.20.
In June, investigators say Benaroch told an employee to load 90 pallets of the mulch onto a truck that would take it to a recycling facility in Hendry County. Sgt. Williamson says Benaroch instructed that facility to sell the mulch for him.
So in July when the county asked for its vendors to return any county property, Affordable Landscaping returned 555 bags of the mulch, but the 90 pallets were long gone.
“Stealing is stealing in my opinion so they didn’t have the authority to dispose of this mulch, therefore it’s a criminal act,” Sgt. Williamson said.
Benaroch’s lawyer tells WINK News that they’re working to clear him of any charges.