ORLANDO, Fla. - The political unknown once tapped by Gov. Charlie Crist to lead the state GOP was arrested Wednesday on charges he ran a scam to bilk the party, officials said.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement took former state GOP Chairman Jim Greer, 47, into custody at his Orlando-area home. He is charged with one count of organized fraud, four counts of felony grand theft, and one count of money-laundering, said William Shepherd, Florida's statewide prosecutor.

Crist, who abandoned the Republican Party to run for U.S. Senate as an independent, said Wednesday that he was surprised by the arrest and knew nothing of Greer's alleged wrongdoing.

"Sometimes you're disappointed by people," he told a news conference in Tallahassee. "I do not feel complicit."

He said he had not been questioned by investigators and did not expect his ties with Greer to hurt his campaign, though his opponents quickly pounced, with tea party favorite Marco Rubio's campaign sending out news releases Wednesday emphasizing them. Crist dropped out of the GOP when it became clear that he could not beat Rubio in August's GOP primary.

Greer, a small-town vice mayor, was a surprise pick for party chairman after he led local efforts to help Crist get elected in 2006. He previously was the president and chief executive officer of a company that provides training to the hospitality industry on how to comply with alcohol laws.

Crist remained loyal, defending his friend even as reports surfaced that Greer had used party funds on ritzy hotels, gourmet restaurants, and private jets. Greer stepped down in February.

Shepherd said Wednesday that Greer's scam involved funneling GOP money to a company called Victory Strategies that he secretly controlled. On Greer's orders, the Republican Party of Florida paid Victory Strategies for campaign work, much of which was never performed, and gave the company a 10 percent cut of major donations that Greer and his top assistant, Delmar Johnson, took, Shepherd said.

Greer got about $125,000 of the almost $200,000 that the party paid Victory Strategies, while Johnson was paid more than $65,000, the statewide prosecutor said.

Johnson is helping with the investigation and will not be charged, prosecutors said. He declined comment when contacted by text message Wednesday.