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7 deputy recruits fired in Pinellas Sheriff’s Office cheating scandal

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office fired seven deputy recruits Monday morning after an investigation determined they had cheated on a test.

Seven “deputy recruits obtained copies of actual FTO exams, used the exams to their benefit, cheated and lied,” said Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. “We have nothing in the law enforcement profession without our integrity and there is no place for cheaters and liars in law enforcement and certainly not in the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.”

The recruits, all hired on Nov. 9, reportedly obtained copies of the Phase I and II Field Training exams. The materials obtained and used to cheat included both oral and written testing information.

The Sheriff’s Office began its investigation Jan. 21 after officials suspected the recruits of cheating. Some of the recruits received a perfect score on the test. According to a news release from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, some of those involved also lied about their involvement in the scandal.

The materials obtained were the exact versions of the test administered.

The Sheriff’s Office also said the recruits planned to use the materials to cheat on the Phase II exam as well.

Those recruits fired from the program include Darold Cook, Julia Hopkins, Joshua Mason, Thomas McDonnell, Bruce Ramos, Diana Shoemaker, and Michael Walker.

A deputy involved in the cheating scandal also resigned after the investigation uncovered he had leaked the testing materials to the recruits. That deputy is Eric Biddle, a deputy with the agency since February  2012.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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