Mitch Brooks, the former National Plasterers Council executive director who had pleaded no contest to charges of Grand Theft, was found dead Friday morning after failing to appear for his sentencing hearing. He was 54 years old.

While local law enforcement has not confirmed the cause of death, NPC officials were notified that it was suicide.

“It’s a sadder ending to a very sad story,” said Greg Garrett, a long-time member and instructor for NPC.

In January, 2016, Brooks was taken from his Florida home and arrested, accused of misappropriating NPC funds. A forensic accountant hired by the association claimed that his association management firm, Visioneering Consultants, took nearly $1.5 million beyond the agreed-upon fees, leaving the association in financial straits from which it took a couple years to recover.

Brooks remained in prison for about 15 months. He was finally released after winning a battle to reduce his bail amount from $1.5 million to $110,000. He had to wear an electronic monitoring device. Brooks fought multiple times for the bail reduction, which he ultimately received after appealing a lower court decision. He also waged multiple attempts to change his public defense and gain accommodations for an unnamed health condition.

Last month, days before his trial was set to begin, Brooks pleaded no contest to charges that he siphoned money from the NPC through Visioneering Consultants. While other charges had been dropped, the Grand Theft charges carried a sentence of up to 30 years. The prosecutor had recommended that Brooks serve up to five years and pay restitution and court costs of approximately $677,000.

Brooks’ sentencing hearing was scheduled to take place this morning. When he failed to appear, the court issued a bench warrant for his arrest. He was found dead as officials sought him for arrest.

Mitchell Thomas Brooks was born Dec. 7, 1963. He began working in the pool/spa industry in 1997 and served as executive director for several associations. In addition to the NPC, he and his company had stints managing several chapters of the Florida Swimming Pool Association when it was a part of APSP; the International Hot Tub Association, which was absorbed by APSP several years ago; and Genesis in its early days.