ORLAND PARK, Ill. --
The embattled Orland Fire Protection District firefighter who faces up to 20 years in prison for allegedly bilking his employer while lying about fighting overseas has resigned.
The fire district received a resignation letter from Larry Masa last Friday -- five months after the district asked him to sign one, Fire Protection District Board President Patrick Maher said.
During a recent exclusive interview with the Daily Southtown, Masa said, "If it wasn't going to make any of the criminal charges go away, how could I sign it?"
Masa and his attorney did not return phone calls for comment Thursday.
What Masa's resignation means is unclear.
The 42-year-old Morris resident hasn't been working since he was arrested earlier this year, and he hasn't been paid since March, when his unused accrued time ran out, Maher said. Plus, Masa still faces up to 20 years in prison for theft and official misconduct.
Maher said the resignation means a great deal to the fire district.
"We're able to start putting this thing to rest, putting closure on this," Maher said. "It's just a huge step for us."
The former firefighter, whom friends have called dynamic and dedicated, is accused of telling his supervisors five times from March 2003 to April 2006 that he was called to active duty. During that time, Masa allegedly collected about $193,000 in salary and benefits that are available to firefighters on legitimate military leave, prosecutors have said. His fellow firefighters racked up $50,000 in unpaid overtime pay to cover his shifts.
The district sued Masa to get its money back. The lawsuit is pending.
The results of an internal fire district investigation released in April concluded that fire officials might have been suspicious of Masa if they had listened to rumors circulating in the firehouse or if they had opened a sealed envelope in his personnel file that allegedly acknowledged Masa was working for a private contractor instead of serving in the military.
Orland Park police investigated the conduct of fire administrators and in part discredited the internal investigation, saying that former Deputy Chief Art Granat did not delete a Masa-related file from his laptop before he retired, as the fire district's report claimed. The police are not pursuing conspiracy charges against any top brass.
Masa stands by his story that he was working overseas, from the deserts of Pakistan to the mountains of Nepal. He has said he was training soldiers and gathering information on terrorists while working for USIS, an independent military contractor.
He admits giving the fire district fake deployment papers.
Much of Masa's story can't be verified because he has not provided documents or employer contacts to the Daily Southtown.
In his resignation letter addressed to Maher, Masa doesn't explain why he's quitting, Maher said.
He added that he wasn't sure if he could provide the Daily Southtown with a copy of the resignation letter. The fire district referred the request to acting Chief Bryant Krizik, who did not return a phone call.
Related Story: Sept. 14, 2007: Chief Charged In Firefighter Fund Theft
Copyright 2007, Sun-Times News Group