MELBOURNE, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -
Disabled since 2006, there are times when Melbourne resident Shirley Rentz heavily relies on the Women’s Center in Brevard County for very basic necessities, like food.
"It means a lot, that there is a caring place that is willing to help and care for women,” says Rentz. “Especially domestic violence."
The Women's Center says more than 10,000 women a year come through their doors, without the ability to provide for themselves and their families. Most are victims of domestic violence, and according to the Center’s Jenn Gould, are in desperate need.
"Because a lot of them leave with nothing,” says Gould. “And sometimes, they are in situations where they don't leave the situation, because they are afraid of leaving with nothing."
It’s in sharp contrast with the lavish lifestyle lived by 32-year-old Christie Hunt, of Melbourne. She's accused of stealing $650,000 from her Titusville employer, which she allegedly used to buy whatever she wanted.
Detectives with the Sheriff's economic crimes unit says Hunt rented a high-end home in the exclusive Suntree neighborhood, called Sawgrass Key. That's where investigators say she stored two newly-purchased Audi A7s, and $40,000 of brand new furniture. Last Thursday, Hunt was arrested on a charge of embezzlement.
"In fact, when they effected the arrest she was leaving to go on a cruise,” says Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey. “She was already packed and getting ready to walk out the door."
Sheriff Ivey says one of the victims was American Express, which is now the rightful owner of Hunt's $40,000 furniture.
"American express said, 'You know what, all of this stuff, anything that's in there that you think would benefit a charitable organization, give it to them,'” said Ivey.
The Sheriff's Economic Crime Team suggested the furniture go to women who truly need it. Some of the allegedly ill-gotten furnishings will be sold at the Women's Center Furniture and More Store on U.S. Highway 192 in Melbourne.
"The surprise donation is wonderful,” says Gould.
Clients like Shirley receive credits to buy furniture here they need, like beds for her grandchildren.
"It means a lot,” says Rentz. “It means they aren't sleeping on the couch or floor. I'm just thankful that there's places to help us.”
Sheriff Ivey calls it a silver-lined ending to a dark story of alleged fraud and theft.
"It’s kind of ironic that a woman takes all of this money and uses it for her own personal gain, and then an organization says, 'Here, we are going to take this and put it to work to help others in need,'” said Ivey.