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Investigators say volunteer fire department treasurer stole $238K

May 25, 2018

The former treasurer of a volunteer fire department in Hamilton County is accused of stealing more than $238,000 of the department’s money from 2013 to 2016, according to a state investigation.

A special investigation report from the Indiana State Board of Accounts released Friday morning says former Wayne Township Fire Department treasurer Norman Burgess used the department's money for personal payments to a youth hockey league, for funeral expenses and for phone and satellite TV services.

In March, Burgess was indicted for six counts of wire fraud in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana for the crime, but the new report shows the former treasurer may have taken more money than previously thought.

The State Board of Accounts reports that Burgess owes the department a total of $238,375—up from the roughly $130,000 outlined in his indictment.

The review says Burgess received 112 unauthorized payments from the fire department that totaled nearly $60,000 from 2013 to 2016. Twenty out of 21 of those payments made in 2015 were traced to his personal bank account.

Investigators say he also made 226 unauthorized cash withdrawals totaling more than $71,000 from the department from ATMs and by writing checks payable to “cash” from the department’s checking account.

And Burgess allegedly used the department’s debit card to pay for funeral expenses for his father, items from fuel and convenience stores, food, online retailers and child support.

The department found that Burgess had spent more than $27,000 on pharmacy purchases, clothing, travel, youth hockey leagues, phone bills, TV bills, trash disposal, electric service, credit card payments and payments to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

The debit card purchases totaled nearly $50,000 from 2013-2016. Burgess also owes the department for unnecessary penalties, interest, over-payment of payroll taxes and the cost of the special investigation, according to the report.

As treasurer, Burgess was responsible for the fire department’s payroll and accounts-payable systems, bank accounts, debit cards and checks.

He resigned in October 2016, after other administrators with the fire department noticed the financial discrepancies.

His case is still pending in federal court. A trial has been set for Aug. 27.

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