A Ludlow Falls man is accused of stealing nearly $200,000 from the volunteer fire department.
Robert Smith was the former treasure at the department and is on trial for felony theft while in office.
News Center 7’s James Rider spoke to the Ludlow Falls fire chief, who is in disbelief at what was found while going through financial records.
“The feeling is just betrayal and sadness,” said Chief Chad Allen.
The bank tipped off the department to suspicious activity regarding the department’s account in October.
The next day, Allen looked at the bank records.
“We were just amazed and just dumbfounded at what we had seen,” he said. “It’s just hard to comprehend it. It’s just from tattoo parlors to hotel expenses, inmate calls and just cash withdrawals. It’s just something we just do not do here at the fire department.”
The volunteer fire department gets roughly $100,000 per year to operate and save for future purchases.
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Allen said if the bank didn’t catch this it might have continued until the accounts were empty.
Smith was the department’s treasurer for 30 years. He’s accused of stealing nearly $200,000 over the last four years.
“He was a close personal friend of mine and a member here for over 30 years that we trusted and everybody on this department trusted,” Allen said.
The department still has money to operate as normal, but the biggest question they’re facing now is when they’ll have the money to buy new equipment.
“If something does happen with the building, the equipment, it’s just do we have the money to be able to replace it?” he said.
Allen also said this adds to what was a difficult year with the village being hit by the Memorial Day tornadoes to go along with a bad season for farmers.
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“Now to have this happen on top of all this, it’s just really heartbreaking and tough for us,” he said.
The department now has several steps in place to make sure that this doesn’t happen again, Allen said.