Sheriff Hoffman Holds Awards Ceremony

NEWS RELEASE 21-060 - NOVEMBER 15, 2021 

Sarasota County Sheriff Kurt A. Hoffman presented several awards during a ceremony Monday to recognize employees who demonstrated exemplary service to their community.

Communications Operator Patrick Ziarnicki received the Life Saving Award for his efforts in assisting a citizen administer aid to an unresponsive patient. On March 7, Operator Ziarnicki received a 911 call regarding a 67-year-old unconscious man. He quickly learned the patient was in cardiac arrest and in need of CPR. Operator Ziarnicki relayed instructions on proper CPR techniques for eight minutes until paramedics arrived. While the patient was being transported to the hospital, the man began breathing again and regained consciousness. Operator Ziarnicki’s quick assessment and verbal directions resulted in the preservation of the patient’s life.

Deputies Cindy Fornal and George Norton received the Life Saving Award for their efforts to save a man experiencing a medical emergency. On June 13, deputies responded to a Sarasota residence for the report of a man lying unresponsive in the driveway. Deputy Fornal arrived on scene and immediately located the victim who was unconscious and not breathing. Deputies Fornal and Norton each completed three cycles of CPR until paramedics arrived and took over. The man regained a pulse and began breathing again before he was transported to the hospital. Medical personnel confirmed the man survived only thanks to the sustained efforts of Deputies Fornal and Norton.

Sergeant Adam Shaw received the Life Saving Award for his efforts in saving a jogger who collapsed in a Sarasota neighborhood. On June 20, deputies responded to assist the Sarasota County Fire Department with an unconscious man on the side of the road. Sergeant Shaw was first to arrive on scene and assess the patient. When Segreant Shaw was unable to locate a pulse, he immediately began CPR and continued life-saving measures until paramedics took over. Hospital staff confirmed Shaw’s actions saved the man’s life.

Deputy Jim Lynch received the Life Saving Award for rendering aid to a citizen during a structure fire. On June 5, several deputies responded to a mobile home in Nokomis, completely engulfed in flames. Upon his arrival, Deputy Lynch located a man lying in the grass suffering from smoke inhalation. Deputy Lynch dragged the man approximately 25 feet away from the home, to safety, where paramedics rendered aid. Without the heroic actions of Deputy Lynch, the victim would have likely succumbed to the fire.

Corrections Deputies Danny Patnaude and Jamie Briandi received the Life Saving Award for rendering aid to a Sarasota County Correctional Facility inmate who attempted suicide. In August, Deputy Patnaude was assigned as the lead deputy in a direct observation cellblock within the facility. Upon exiting his cell, one of the inmates quickly ran upstairs and tied a bedsheet around his neck before jumping off the top tier. Deputy Patnaude immediately called for assistance and ran upstairs to render aid to the inmate. Several nearby inmates assisted Deputy Patnaude by pushing the inmate from the first floor to release the pressure from around his neck and helping to pull the inmate over the railing. Deputy Briandi soon arrived and successfully removed the bedsheet from around the inmate’s neck. The inmate was treated by facility medical staff, taken to the hospital, and later released. Without the heroic actions of Deputies Patnaude and Briandi, the inmate may not have survived.

Deputies Shane Ayala, Artem Lyashenko, Philip Mockler, Colin McCormick, and Cali Ivings received the Heroic Achievement Award for their efforts in rescuing two occupants of a vehicle engulfed in flames. On August 8, deputies responded to reports of a vehicle that crashed into a light pole on Midnight Pass Road near Stickney Point Road. When deputies arrived on scene, they attempted to extinguish the fire to no avail. Deputy Ayala was able to pull the driver to safety where Deputy Ivings began providing first aid. Deputies Mockler and Lyashenko continued dousing the flames while Deputies Ayala and McCormick tried to reach the passenger who was pinned in the front seat. When the Sarasota County Fire Department arrived with extrication equipment, deputies were eventually successful in freeing the passenger. If not for the quick actions of Deputies Ayala, Lyashenko, McCormick, Mockler, and Ivings, both occupants would have suffered serious injury or death from being trapped inside the burning vehicle.

Sarasota County Project Manager Laurel Varnell received a Certificate of Appreciation in recognition of her contributions toward halting the release of more than $4 million in fraudulent CARES Act money. In August 2020, Sarasota County officials operating the Sarasota County Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) grant program were tasked with distributing $75.7 million to Sarasota County citizens and businesses impacted by COVID-19. In November, county officials reported fraudulent activity after discovering three fraudulent CARES Act applications. Detectives met with county officials and a team of project managers including Varnell, to discuss the investigation. Soon, the team identified 170 fraudulent applications which had a potential loss of nearly $5.8 million. Upon learning the scale of potential fraud, a task force was created including sheriff’s office detectives and crime analysts, as well as Manager Varnell.

In February 2021, members of the agency’s Investigations Bureau along with the United States Secret Service executed a search warrant at the lead suspect’s place of business, SRQ Financial Solutions. Several electronic devices and more than 1,500 pages of documents were recovered. Task force members spent more than three months reviewing each application, email communication, and banking documents, while consecutively interviewing more than 100 employees and clients of SRQ Financial Solutions. At the conclusion of their investigation, 17 people were arrested and charged with crimes including Scheme to Defraud, Grand Theft, and Perjury. Manager Varnell’s assistance and exceptional work during this investigation led to her Certificate of Appreciation during Monday’s ceremony.

“As Sheriff, these are the days I am most proud of,” commented Sheriff Hoffman. “The men and women we are honoring today go beyond the call of duty, whether stopping a citizen from ending their life or rescuing a citizen from a fully engulfed vehicle, these deputies do not hesitate when someone’s life is on the line. I am very proud of these members and their community should be as well.”