Washington (CNN) – Former Republican Party of Florida chairman Jim Greer, who stepped down from his post earlier this year after grassroots leaders revolted against his management of the party, is under criminal investigation for allegedly setting up an secret fundraising contract that paid him and the party's executive director nearly $200,000 in donor money.
An independent annual audit of party expenses revealed that the party "may have been the victim of illegal criminal activity on the part of one of its vendors, controlled by a senior-level official," said Jim Thrasher, the current chairman of the party, in a statement Wednesday.
That vendor was Victory Strategies, LLC, a firm set up in February 2009 by Greer and former RPOF executive director Delmar Johnson that awarded them a 10 percent cut of all party donations.
Thrasher said he notified Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum on March 15 of the "potential illegal activity." McCollum called the information "serious and concerning" and referred the matter to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which is now investigating Greer for potential criminal activities.
Greer, the majority owner of the firm, and Johnson collected at least $133,000 worth of donor money in 2009 along with $66,250 in additional consulting fees.
The pair's financial windfall came as the party struggled to raise money and faced a grassroots backlash from conservatives who saw Greer as a puppet of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who is seeking the Republican Senate nomination against former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio.
Crist appointed Greer, a political ally, to helm the RPOF in 2007, but the chairman resigned this past February after a chorus of state Republican leaders and donors raised questions his leadership and management of party funds.
Within the Republican National Committee, Greer became a prominent voice urging the GOP to open its arms to moderate voters and minorities. Greer himself considered running for the chairmanship of the RNC in 2009 before throwing his support to Michael Steele, a key endorsement in the chairman's race. The RNC had no comment on the investigation.
Greer did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the investigation.
Asked for the governor's response, Crist's office referred to an interview he gave to the Miami Herald on Wednesday. Crist said he only heard about the probe today. He also told the paper he "had heard rumors" that Greer owned a stake in a consulting firm that was paid with party funds.
"I find it terribly disturbing to hear, but I know that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will certainly conduct a thorough and comprehensive investigation," Crist said.
Rubio, meanwhile, issued a statement saying he is "deeply troubled by today's news accounts about possible criminal activity," but he would not comment further due to the ongoing nature of the probe. He thanked Thrasher for working "to turn the page" on Greer's tenure at the party.
Story updated at 4:30 p.m. ET
UPDATE: Greer, through an attorney, responded to the probe.