Theft in the Volunteer Fire Service
On Feb. 1, 2010, the former treasurer of a fire company in Pennsylvania pleaded guilty to charges that she embezzled more than $103,000 from the department. The woman was given a sentence of one to two years, with three months to be served in prison and the remainder to be served on home monitoring. The theft was discovered after the woman was suspended from the fire company in December 2008 for fighting with another member. When she turned the financial records back over to the fire company, company officials found some irregularities. The woman made up non-existent fire company expenses and wrote the majority of the checks payable to herself.
The theft occurred despite a fire company policy that required two authorized signatures for checks. The woman would ask company officers to sign blank checks in advance for "convenience" purposes, permitting her to be the second signature. According to the prosecutor's office, her scheme involved at least 35 checks totaling $95,425, plus she made withdrawals of another $8,000.
On Jan. 26, 2010, the former treasurer of a fire company in Pennsylvania was charged with stealing more than $150,000 from the company. The woman is alleged to have taken the money from the fire company while serving as treasurer between 2003 and 2009. The first indication of a problem occurred in July 2009, when the fire company attempted to purchase equipment, food and fuel, but was turned down because of past-due balances.
Police allege the woman kept false ledgers to cover up the thefts and presented fictitious financial reports to the fire company's board at monthly meetings. News reports state she had recently divorced, was facing financial hardships and used the money to pay credit card bills and purchase clothing and other items for her three young children.
Allegedly, the woman failed to pay legitimate fire company bills owed to various vendors, and instead she wrote checks to herself. Also as part of her scheme, she used the fire chief's signature stamp without his permission.
Two volunteer firefighters were charged in March 2010 in the disappearance of tens of thousands of dollars from a fire department in New York. The two ran a "bell jar ticket game" as a fundraiser for the department and are alleged to have embezzled between $30,000 and $80,000. One of the accused was the department treasurer. The bell jar ticket game is a game of chance that is authorized and regulated by New York law (as well as other states) as a fundraiser. Players purchase tickets and can instantly win varying amounts of money. Charitable organizations, including volunteer fire departments, that wish to operate a bell jar ticket game must register with the New York Racing & Wagering Board.
OTHER 2010 CASES
•The treasurer of a fire department in West Virginia was charged with stealing more than $375,000 in money intended for volunteer firefighters
•A member of a fire department in Pennsylvania was charged with stealing more than $284,000 from the department
•The treasurer of an Indiana fire department was charged with theft after a lengthy investigation into missing department funds
•A firefighter who served as treasurer of a Virginia fire department for 30 years was indicted on two counts of embezzlement in connection with the theft of more than $100,000 from the department
•The former chief of a fire department in Indiana was charged with fraud and theft from his department while he was the chief
•A firefighter with a fire-rescue department in Texas was charged with stealing nearly $3,000 from the fire rescue auxiliary.
•A member of a Maine fire department was charged with theft of $10,000 in town funds by submitting personal expenses for reimbursement claiming they were fire department expenses
•A member of a fire company in Pennsylvania was charged with stealing gasoline for his personal use while filling a fire apparatus with diesel from the municipal pumps; another member was charged with theft and receiving stolen property after he took two GPS units belonging to the company
•A member of an Oregon fire department was charged with stealing nearly $21,000 from the department
•A fire chief in New Jersey was charged with theft for writing fire department checks and depositing them into his personal accounts; police believe the total amount involved is under $75,000