Fla. county's tourism director sought for fraud

May 4, 2012 

DESTIN, Fla. (AP) - A manhunt is under way for a Florida Panhandle county's tourism director accused of stealing $710,000 in tax money to buy a luxury yacht.

The Okaloosa County Sherriff's office said Friday that deputies are searching for Mark Bellinger, the county's tourism director. They said a suicide note was discovered at his Destin home late Thursday.

Detectives said the $747,000 home was bought in August and may have been purchased with money provided by the oil company BP to the county tourism council after the 2010 Gulf oil spill. That is being investigated.

In a resignation letter to the county commission, Bellinger said he bought the yacht for tourism promotions. But the commission never approved such a purchase.

Bellinger may be driving his 2011 Subaru Legacy, bearing Florida Tag 262NFS.

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