DESTIN, Fla. (WALA) - The same day Okaloosa County Sheriff's Deputies issued a warrant for former Tourist Development Council Director Mark Bellinger,52, Sheriff Larry Ashley said authorities in Pelham, Alabama found him.
"I'm also saddened to tell you that Mr. Bellinger has taken a suspected drug overdose, and that he is deceased," said Ashley.
Authorities were able to determine that Bellinger may be in the Pelham, Alabama, area around 11 a.m. Friday.
Authorities located Bellinger in a vehicle down a dirt road at 11:20 a.m . He was taken to a nearby hospital where he later died.
He had been missing since May 3 after resigning as TDC director.
His resignation came due to an investigation into a $710,000 yacht Bellinger admitted buying with bed tax dollars, a tourist tax which is supposed to go to advertising.
That same day, investigators found a suicide note in Bellinger's Kelly Plantation home in Destin. His vehicle, a 2011 4-door silver Subaru Legacy with Florida license tag 262 NFS, was missing.
An arrest warrant was issued Thursday after OCSO investigators gathered probable cause that Bellinger had stolen public funds to pay for his Destin home.
"Mr. Bellinger was the probable cause for a grand theft charge. That charge revolves around the suspected use of TDC funds for a $747,000 Destin home in Kelly Plantation and possible use of TDC funds given after the 2010 BP Oil Spill," Ashley said.
Ashley said the connection was made after documentation was provided to the Okaloosa Sheriff's Office.
However, he said this is just the beginning.
An in-depth investigation is planned into all of Bellinger's financial dealings as TDC Director.
"We are extremely saddened that Mr. Bellinger took his life. We are sad for his family, but we will not end the investigation here," said Ashley.
The Okaloosa Sheriff's Office said they will be working the FDLE, Auditor General and the FBI to perform a forensic audit of the Okaloosa Tourist Development Council.
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