Polk County Sheriff's Office detectives arrested 28-year-old Kyla Anne Rivas Zehtab of Lakeland on Tuesday, August 1, 2017, for 1 count grand theft (Florida State Statute 812.014) and 1 count forgery (Florida State Statute 817.566). Zehtab was employed by the Polk County Board of County Commissioners as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for Polk County Fire Rescue (PCFR) since January 3, 2017. Zehtab forged a physical abilities test certificate from the Broward Fire Academy to be eligible for a Firefighter promotion at PCFR (which would have resulted in a higher salary-- an additional $11,123 annually).
According to the affidavit, Zehtab was interested in being promoted to a Firefighter position and met all of the qualifications other than the required certification for a physical abilities test. Zehtab told her supervisor at PCFR she had taken the course two times, but failed to obtain her certificate of completion.
On July 19, 2017, Zehtab forwarded to her supervision a copy of a certificate for successful completion of the physical abilities test from the Broward Fire Academy dated June 10, 2017. Her supervision noticed irregularities while processing the documentation. The text on the certificate appeared to be darker than normal, slanted, and not parallel with the corresponding text on the document.
When PCFR employees contacted the Broward Fire Academy to verify Zehtab's attendance, they responded saying there was no record of her attending the training, and stated an original document was altered. Director Mark Wilson with the Broward Fire Academy stated, "In reference to your fax of July, 27, 2017, the Broward Fire Academy does not have a record of this person successfully completing a County-wide Ability test at our facility.
Furthermore, we are unable to locate a registration form, payment confirmation, or a time/score sheet that would indicate participation on the date identified on the certificate. At this time we must conclude that one of our original documents has been altered and presented to you."
"Instead of doing the right thing, Ms. Zehtab decided to forge a certificate to make herself eligible for a promotion in order to receive compensation for which she was not entitled. Forging a certificate to be promoted to a Firefighter is not only an integrity issue, but it is also a public safety concern." Grady Judd, Sheriff
Zehtab has been suspended with pay pending an internal investigation by PCFR.
"Ms. Zehtab did not meet the high standards set to become a firefighter. As a result of her actions, such conduct will not be tolerated. Therefore, we notified the Polk County Sheriff's Office and she was charged criminally. We expect nothing less than professionalism and honesty from our employees!" -Joe Halman, Jr., Deputy County Manager of Public Safety, Polk County Board of County Commissioners.
Inquiries about Zehtab's employment should be directed to Polk County Fire Rescue's Public Information Officer Kevin Watler at (863) 232-7357.
Zehtab has been booked into the Polk County jail on the above charges and is being held on no bond pending first appearance hearing.
Kyla Anne Rivas-Zehtab