A former president of Lewisberry Community Fire Co. has admitted to embezzling more than $11,000 from the company, which was forced to close because of financial debt. Jennifer Lou Cassada, 38, of 308 N. Third St. in Rio Grande, N.J., pleaded guilty April 19 to theft by unlawful taking, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds, and access device fraud.
She was sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay the inactive fire company $11,815.52 in restitution, according to court records.
The theft case against co-defendant Markwood C. Albright II, 37, of 303 Harrisburg Pike in Dillsburg, remains active. He is a former Lewisberry fire chief and has a pretrial conference scheduled for May 3.
Cassada's attorney, chief public defender Bruce Blocher, declined comment.
The background: Newberry Township Police said Albright and Cassada stole at least $11,815.52 from the fire company and used the money to pay bills and to take a Caribbean cruise together.
"They essentially financially destroyed that fire company," police Chief John Snyder said. "It's a shame."
Mired in debt, Lewisberry's volunteer fire company closed in November, according to Travis Fuhrman, who took over as fire chief after Albright and Cassada stepped down in May 2010.
"Their wrongdoings are what sent us into a tailspin," Fuhrman has said.
Snyder said Albright was chief of the company for several years, and Cassada served as its president for several years.
Fuhrman said that when Cassada and Albright ran the company, input from members regarding finances wasn't allowed.
Before the couple stepped down, they sold the fire station to Lewisberry borough as a way to get extra money to pay outstanding bills, Fuhrman said, and the borough agreed to lease the building back to the fire company.
Involved: Investigators believe Cassada and Albright were romantically involved at the time.
Charging documents state a separate forensic audit was done by the Pennsylvania Auditor General's Office, which concluded Albright and Cassada stole at least $13,661 from Lewisberry Fire Co.
But Snyder said police were only able to find evidence to prove the pair stole $11,815.52.
"It's my opinion we will never know how much they took," he has said. "There's money we can't track. A lot of business with fire companies is done in cash. ... So how do you ever know how much was taken?"
Cassada and Albright used the stolen money, in part, to pay their bills and also spent nearly $4,400 to take a Caribbean cruise together, court documents state.
3rd official charged: Last week, Newberry Township Police filed a charge of criminal mischief against Dennis A. Beck, the fire company's last president.
Police allege Beck, 44, of 450 Ridge Road in Newberry Township, is responsible for damage to the building that allegedly happened in November as Beck and other members tried to move large appliances and other items from the station.
Beck's attorney, Nathan Wolf, said any damage that might have been done was unintentional.
He also said he questions whether the matter should be handled in civil court, rather than criminal court.
The fire company is no longer active, but its charter is still in place and it still exists as an entity, Wolf said.
Written by The York Dispatch
Courtesy of YellowBrix - YellowBrix