St. Augustine Beach resident Melissa Bush, the former St. Johns County Tax Collector’s Office employee who was arrested in August amid allegations of defrauding customers, was sentenced Jan. 9 by Circuit Judge Howard Maltz to serve 180 days in the St. Johns County Jail, and then five subsequent years of drug offender probation.
According to the warrant affidavit filed by the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office (SJSO), in a June 6 meeting with the authorities, Bush admitted to overcharging customers and taking the cash difference – which totaled more than $13,000 from June 2013 to April 2017 – to support her illicit drug habits. On Nov. 30, however, she signed a plea agreement in which she pleaded no contest to the single charge of “scheme to defraud property valued under $20,000.” Although a count of “official misconduct” was also included in the affidavit, prosecutors never filed that charge with the court.
Per the terms of Bush’s agreement, adjudication of guilt was withheld, with the stipulation that she spend the latter portion of her incarceration in the jail’s S.I.G.H.T. (Serenity, Integrity, Goals, Hope, Trust) drug intervention program. Bush will also be required to pay restitution for the cost of the investigation, which totaled $17,389.
Bush worked at both the main office in St. Augustine and the branch office in Ponte Vedra Beach.