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  1. #1
    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    Angry PA - Can someone explain how this happens?

    BRADDOCK FIRE CHIEF TO PLEAD GUILTY TO BINGO FUNDS THEFT

    Copyright 2003 P.G. Publishing Co.
    Pittsburgh Post-Gazette...02/12/2003

    JIM MCKINNON, POST-GAZETTE STAFF WRITER

    Investigators said that Thomas Petrovic's weekly winnings at the bingo games run by the Braddock Volunteer Fire Department were the result of skimming and not luck.

    Today, Petrovic, who has remained fire chief and business manager of the department, is expected to plead guilty to reduced charges in connection with the theft of more than $ 23,000 in bingo proceeds over a one-year period.

    Petrovic, 48, of Braddock, was scheduled for trial today on charges of conspiracy; unlawfully using the fire department computer in the theft of the money; access device fraud; obstructing justice; two counts of hindering apprehension or prosecution; and five counts of violating the rules for licensing and operation of a bingo game.

    In addition to the theft of $ 23,397, taken from December 1999 to November 2000, he was charged with using a fire department credit card to buy himself a Compaq computer system and service plan for $ 1,428.

    Defense attorney G. William Bills Jr. and Assistant District Attorney Marnie Sheehan apparently worked out a plea agreement by which Petrovic's charges will be reduced in exchange for his guilty plea.

    Neither attorney could be reached yesterday for comment.

    Petrovic's brother, Robert Petrovic, 54, had been charged with conspiring to and hindering the apprehension or prosecution of his brother. A court official said that Robert Petrovic now will not be prosecuted. The agreement concerning Thomas Petrovic is pending the approval of Common Pleas Judge Donna Jo McDaniel.

    Both of the Petrovics have served as chief of the volunteer fire company in Braddock.

    In 1981, when Thomas Petrovic was chief, he was sentenced to five years in federal prison for starting a fire that destroyed Silberman's Wholesale Grocery Warehouse in Braddock. While in prison, he said he learned accounting, a skill that qualified him to oversee the take at the fire company's weekly bingo games.

    The scheme of skimming profits came to light and was reported by another firefighter who said he stood in for Thomas Petrovic and was instructed to hold back $ 200 off the "Winner-Take-All Double Bingo" game, in which the winner is supposed to collect all of the proceeds. The $ 200 was supposed to be used to pay volunteers who help operate the bingo, but the missing money never was reported in the company's bookkeeping.

    Members of the fire company estimated that Petrovic took $ 30,000 to $ 50,000 from the bingo every year.

    After the charges were filed, some firefighters failed in an attempt to vote Petrovic out of office.
    Jim McKinnon can be reached at jmckinnon@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1939

    In 1981, when Thomas Petrovic was chief, he was sentenced to five years in federal prison for starting a fire that destroyed Silberman's Wholesale Grocery Warehouse in Braddock.
    He is convicted of setting a fire in his own town, and then is later elected Chief again?

    Members of the fire company estimated that Petrovic took $ 30,000 to $ 50,000 from the bingo every year.
    How can no one notice this?
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?


  2. #2
    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    Let's summarize:

    He's Fire Chief

    He burns down a building, obviously for profit

    Goes to Federal Prison for five years

    Comes back, is re-elected Fire Chief

    Steals $30,000+ a year from the FD

    Is re-elected Fire Chief, still.

    No, there's no dysfunctionality there...

  3. #3
    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    Thanks Dal, I thought it was me.

    I forgot my favorite comment...
    After the charges were filed, some firefighters failed in an attempt to vote Petrovic out of office.
    He must be one hell of a Chief if they still want him!
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

  4. #4
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    Talking

    I think our ex-governor would have liked to talk to this guy prior to the last election.

    The Doc is out now

  5. #5
    Forum Member 1835Wayne's Avatar
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    Wink

    If he had been in IL, your former gov would have pardoned him with the rest!
    I.A.C.O.J. Charter Member
    "Chet, get an inch and a half on that!"

    "Not for fame or reward,Not for place or rank. Not lured by ambition or goaded by necessity. But in simple obedience to duty as they understood it. These men suffered,sacrificed,dared all, and died. Let us never forget our fallen friends."

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    The way we figure it, the pardons came because the Gov wanted to show his soon-to-be new roomies he was an alright guy. (Dare I say it, Goodfella?)

    Now, this guy could have gotten a pardon if he had killed somebody, like the arsonist from Chicago that - what was it - killed five or seven people?

    He would not have needed a pardon if he had contributed to the Gov's campaigns because the investigations would have stopped then. (Except for the Feds, over which he had no control, who are currently putting one of his top dogs on the burner now in Chi-town)

    The Doc is out now.

  7. #7
    MembersZone Subscriber MalahatTwo7's Avatar
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    I read this through once, went away an re-read it again. I am still shaking my head from the first reading.

    To answer the main question: how could after being charged and convicted of an earlier crime could he get back in as Chief... well in a word:

    POLITICS

    If he has the backing of the local Politicos in the area, then that is likely how he got back in. And no doubt he gives some sort of "support" back to them too.

    Of course this is all conjecture, and having never been to Braddock, I don't have any basis for my comments other than partly guess and partly what I will call sideline observation from another region in the world (no need to explain that part).

    I wonder though, how it is that the guys in the Station who tried to vote him out of office never succeeded? There would seem to be more behind the scenes than has been reported.
    If you don't do it RIGHT today, when will you have time to do it over? (Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden)

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    Get it up. Get it on. Get it done!

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  8. #8
    MembersZone Subscriber EFD840's Avatar
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    Question That's a pretty good incentive program!

    Does anyone from Pennsylvania know any details about this department? Is the department and its budget so large that they can miss that amount of money? If so, then how did a convicted arson-for-profit felon get named chief?

    I'm really at a loss for words because it sounds like this guy was skimming an amount equal or greater than my department's annual budget!

  9. #9
    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    Ah Lawyers...
    Thursday, February 13, 2003








    BRADDOCK: Fire chief sentenced

    Braddock Fire Chief Thomas Petrovic was sentenced to five years' probation yesterday and ordered to pay court costs after pleading no contest to the theft of about $17,000 in bingo proceeds.

    Petrovic also pleaded no contest to one count of access device fraud relating to about $1,400 in purchases using a fire department credit card and to one count of violating the rules for licensing and operation of a bingo game.

    After entering the pleas, Petrovic was sentenced by Common Pleas Judge Donna Jo McDaniel. In exchange for the no-contest pleas, the Allegheny County district attorney's office dropped a number of other charges against Petrovic.

    McDaniel said that if Petrovic doesn't violate his probation, she will consider terminating it early.

    Petrovic had no comment after the pleas and sentencing. His attorney, G. William Bills Jr., said Petrovic plans to remain with the fire department.

    "It's too bad the case wasn't assessed more carefully in the beginning," Bills said.

    He said he does not believe Petrovic has lost the confidence of the community or the fire department. "No one has ever, in the Braddock Fire Department, said they don't trust him," he said.


  10. #10
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    I don't specifically know the situation, people or place, either, but I bet I can guess how it happened...

    Here in PA (as in New York and New Jersey, I believe, and maybe some other places), many fire companies serve double duty - as fire departments and as community social/fraternal organizations. It is not uncommon for fire companies to run "social clubs", just like VFWs, American Legions, Athletic Associations, various ethnic organizations, Elks, Moose, Orioles, etc., etc. The basic reason for this is (ostensibly) fundraising...proceeds from the clubs after expenses and required capital (at least theoretically) go to fire operations.

    Not all PA fire companies work this way...many never had clubs, some had clubs and have closed them, and some have split from their clubs but still maintain loose affiliations (the club might be a separately chartered "beneficial association" or something like that). For those companies where the social club and fire department are still under the same corporate umbrella, however, it is not unusual for the entire membership to vote on both executive and fire officers (some, like one I belong to as a social member, have separated the elections so that social members only vote for social club officers and fire personnel vote for fire officers but still maintain a joint corporation). It is also not unusual for "social members" (the bar crowd) to outnumber fire personnel by many orders of magnitude (200 or 300 or more social members to 20 or 30 firefighters, for example). In these situations, it is also not uncommon for some fire personnel (or, in extreme cases, social members) to literally buy chief's elections by rounding up as many social members as possible, buying them lots of drinks at the bar, and herding them in to the meeting to vote for them for Chief. In some cases, it's just "sign up all the family and friends and pack the meeting", or other variants on the theme. Although none of the fire companies I am (or have been) involved with operate this way (at least not in the last 20 years or so), I know of some that do.

    This might be the case in Braddock, and it might not be...but it is the case in some places around the Commonwealth. Let's hear it for tradition!

    Pretty scary, huh?

  11. #11
    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    Pretty scary, huh?
    Yesssirree!
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

  12. #12
    MembersZone Subscriber jaybird210's Avatar
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    Wow. Bob, that was one hell of an enlightning post. It's really amazing sometimes to see how this service has evolved in different areas of the country.

    I thought that kind of politicing only happened in Chicago! Vote early, and vote often!!!
    Omnis Cedo Domus

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  13. #13
    Forum Member DeputyChiefGonzo's Avatar
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    Originally posted by jaybird210


    I thought that kind of politicing only happened in Chicago! Vote early, and vote often!!!
    Don't forget...

    A vote you can buy is a vote you can trust!
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

  14. #14
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    Originally posted by jaybird210
    ...It's really amazing sometimes to see how this service has evolved in different areas of the country...
    Actually, the big problem is that it hasn't evolved in some places.

  15. #15
    MembersZone Subscriber truck6alpha's Avatar
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    I was looking for a smiley that had me shaking my head in disbelief, because the popping eyes smiley just doesn't seem to do it all justice.

    It's so unbelievable that I started to check to see if this was an Urban Legend.
    Michael "Mick" Mayers
    Acting Director, Urban Search and Rescue
    South Carolina Emergency Response Task Force
    www.sctf1.sc.gov

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