Published November 20, 2014
A Florida county's former tourism director has been found dead after being accused of stealing taxpayer money to buy a $710,000 yacht.
Sheriff Larry Ashley said at a news conference Friday that 52-year-old Mark Bellinger was found dead Friday in Pelham, Ala. of an apparent drug overdose. Bellinger, who was hired soon after the 2010 BP oil spill in Okaloosa County in the Florida Panhandle, went missing Thursday.
He acknowledged that he bought the yacht and resigned from the tourism council. Officials said he left a suicide note at his Destin house. His wife called the sheriff's office after she found it.
Officials say Bellinger may also have used county tourism council funds to buy his home.
Okaloosa detectives say some of the money might have come from funds BP gave the tourism council following the spill.