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School Board Candidate Anthony Arenz Arrested

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The current school board candidate and former county commission candidate has charges pending in two other cases

Spring Hill resident and candidate for the Hernando County School Board, Anthony Arenz, was arrested for organized fraud and booked into the Hernando County Jail late last month.

According to an arrest affidavit provided by the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office, Arenz used a self-checkout machine at a local retailer over the course of five visits between June 2 and July 10, 2023. Each time, according to the affidavit, Arenz scanned one item but bagged other merchandise, then left the store without paying for the additional items.

The location of the offense was redacted from the affidavit, likely due to Marsy’s Law, a constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2018 that exempts the identities of crime victims from public disclosure.

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Arenz recently ran for the Hernando County Board of County Commissioners, where he made increasing sheriff’s office funding a focus at his campaign appearances throughout the county. Arenz was defeated in the Republican primary by Jerry Campbell, who went on to win the general election unopposed.

“I’m running for county commissioner to show the youth that you can do anything you set your mind to,” Arenz told the Hernando Sun in a ‘Meet the Candidates’ feature published during his county commission race on July 20, 2022. “[It] doesn’t matter your past or your appearance—scars, blemishes, or tattoos—if you work towards it, you can achieve it.”

Arenz was released on a $2,000 bond and will make his first appearance on August 24, 2023, before Judge Stephen Toner, Jr., at the Hernando County Courthouse. Arenz indicated on his intake documents that he had an attorney, but as of press time, no attorney has entered an appearance on his behalf.

The penalty for organized fraud, if under $20,000, is a third-degree felony that carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Arenz does not have a criminal record in Hernando County.

“Organized fraud is used when a person is engaged in a course of conduct, usually some form of fraud or theft, over a period of time and not just one instance,” explained Brooksville attorney Michael Conageski, who is not involved in this case. “So failing to pay for items at self-checkout could be a theft if done once. But if done several times, it can allow for an organized fraud charge, depending on the details of the case.”

According to sources familiar with the matter, Arenz is also a suspect in two other open cases being investigated. One of those cases was referenced in the arrest affidavit regarding an incident that occurred on July 21, 2023. Specifics regarding that investigation were redacted.

Details about the other active investigations will be released if and when Arenz is formally charged in those additional cases.

Numerous attempts to reach Arenz for comment using the contact information provided on his candidate qualifying documents were unsuccessful. A person who responded to the phone number on his arrest affidavit indicated it was the wrong number.

Candidates charged with a felony but not yet convicted are eligible to run for public office, according to Shirley Anderson, Hernando County Supervisor of Elections. Anderson also confirmed that Arenz is still an active, pre-filed candidate for the Hernando County District 4 School Board.

So far, Arenz faces two opponents in the nonpartisan race: Dr. Mark Cioffi and Gina Phillips, both from the Spring Hill area.

Cioffi, a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, declined comment. Phillips, an office assistant at Pasco-Hernando State College, did not respond to a request for comment.

The next school board election will take place on November 5, 2024.

Axl David
Axl David
Axl resides in Hernando County and grew up in Fountaintown, Indiana, a rural community outside of Indianapolis. He has a passion for journalism, specifically features and investigative reporting. Axl attended Middle Tennessee State University and has a background in policy and emergency management. He feels strongly about civic engagement at the local level, and hopes to facilitate that through his work with The Hernando Sun.
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