Home Fire News $135,000 embezzled from Pennsylvania fire department

$135,000 embezzled from Pennsylvania fire department


The Citizens’ Voice, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

DURYEA — A former member of Germania Hose Company entrusted with managing the fire department’s books siphoned off more than $135,000 for his own personal use over nearly a decade, according to police.

Eric John Wruble, 42, of 257 Swetland St., was charged Wednesday with 332 mostly felony counts alleging he stole $135,643 from department bank accounts and racked up $491 in credit card debt on a department card while serving as treasurer.

Magisterial District Judge Alexandra Kokura Kravitz arraigned Wruble on the charges Wednesday afternoon, citing the “egregious amount” of the alleged thefts as she set bail at $50,000.

Wruble declined to comment as police escorted him out of court.

Police Chief Nicholas A. Lohman said the thefts — which had been ongoing for between eight and 10 years — were discovered over the summer after a longtime member died and someone new came in to review the department’s financial records. The person immediately reported the missing money when it was discovered in August, he said.

The complaint says that when hose company President Gerald Korea took over the department’s financial records, he noticed that Wruble had been writing himself checks. Korea provided police with a list of 38 checks totaling $29,350 that Wruble had written himself without permission between November 2015 and this August.

During questioning, Wruble told police he began drawing money from the department’s apparatus fund when his grandmother was placed into hospice care and his mother was diagnosed with cancer, the complaint says.

Wruble claimed to have only written checks when he was having trouble paying bills related to their health care, although he also acknowledged that he had been unemployed for several months — yet his bills were paid up to date, police said.

In fact, police say financial records showed that Wruble was using stolen money to make payments on two auto loans — one for $27,375 and the other for $19,074.

Wruble offered to cooperate and subsequently provided police with bank statements, along with a Stihl chainsaw and leaf blower that he bought using a department-issued credit card, the complaint says.

Police say the statements showed a pattern of deposits into his accounts that matched the amounts and frequency of withdrawals from the department’s account.

As a result, investigators got search warrants revealing 50 checks totaling $34,792 had been made out to Wruble from the department’s Community Regional Credit Union account, while another department account at People’s Security Bank in Duryea had been used to write 105 checks worth $94,951 to Wruble, the complaint says.

Police say another 13 checks totaling $5,899 had been written to Wruble using a separate department account at the People’s Security Bank.

The investigation uncovered fraudulent checks written as far back as April 2009, according to police.

The complaint says that Wruble listed legitimate expenses such as “roof repair” on the memo line of the checks and that he at one point felt bad about taking the money. But while he claimed to have thought about repaying the department, he never made an attempt to do so, according to police.

Wruble is charged with 187 felony counts of forgery, 133 felony counts of access device fraud, one felony count of theft, one felony count of receiving stolen property, seven misdemeanor counts of securing execution documents by deception, two misdemeanor counts of access device fraud and one misdemeanor count of unsworn falsification.

He was remanded to the Luzerne County Correctional Facility to await trial.

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©2018 The Citizens’ Voice (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.)

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