Former Pa. Chief Accused of Dept. Fund Theft

WILMORE, Pa. --

While many volunteer fire companies are in financial distress, investigators said the Wilmore department was done in by its own chief, who is charged with stealing thousands of dollars.

Fire officials in the Cambria County town said they are now trying to determine how the thefts happened, but area is also scrambling to make ends meet. They said a red flag was raised earlier this year when some of the firefighters wanted to paint their building, but there wasn't enough money to do so and there should have been.

Officials said when they found out there was just $1,300 left in the department's bank account, they knew something didn't add up.

"Our former treasurer asked for an audit and that's when we found out," said Bryan Shuagis, Wilmore Fire Department trustee.

State police said the department's former chief, Robert Marra, and his wife, who was the treasurer, rigged the books. They said Helen Marra wrote checks to her husband from the fire company's account. All told, police said the couple took about $2,300. Shuagis said, for a small fire company like Wilmore, that's huge -- about 80 percent of their funds and money it desperately needs.

"We got a million dollars worth of equipment sitting in this building. It has to be insured and if anything goes wrong now, we can't afford to pay for it," Shuagis said.

With winter soon on its way, officials have even more concerns.

"Heating fuel, electric bills -- it's not going to get any cheaper for us, so we're just on the deep end here."

Shuagis said, at this point, they'll do everything they can to make sure the approximate 250 Wilmore residents still get the best fire protection, but they're also looking for all the help they can get.

"We're still having out fundraisers to keep raising money, but we're hoping through the court system we can hopefully get a portion of that money back," Shuagis said.

The fire department officials are hoping for a good turnout at its sub sale next Saturday and their turkey raffle on Nov. 13, which is one of its biggest fundraisers of the year.

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