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Former cop stole $315k from firefighter association; spent it on food & entertainment

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Pamela Lehman
The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)

A former Allentown police officer is accused of stealing more than $315,000 from a firefighter support organization to pay for restaurant bills, online shopping and his own entertainment, authorities announced Thursday.

Corey Cole Jr., 41, of Lehigh Township, is charged with 380 counts of forgery, theft, and tampering with public information and evidence following an investigation of thefts at the Lehigh Township Fireman’s Relief Association, where Cole served as treasurer. Cole is scheduled to surrender to police at 11 a.m. Friday to be arraigned on the charges.

Lehigh Township police received an official audit detailing the alleged thefts last week. According to a news release, Cole forged checks and fraudulently used a debit card linked to the fireman’s relief bank account.

An accounting of tax dollars was conducted by an audit team last summer and just recently completed, Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said.

A statement issued by DePasquale on Thursday said Cole wrote out more than $211,000 in checks to himself, rang up more than $73,000 in debit card expenses and created more than $19,000 in fictitious vendor invoices. An additional $9,500 in checks signed by Cole were used to pay vendors for “non-relief association purposes,” DePasquale said.

The auditor general audits volunteer firefighter relief associations, which receive state aid from a 2% state tax on fire insurance premiums purchased by Pennsylvania residents from out-of-state casualty insurance companies.

The association received $72,681 in state funds in 2016, the last year audited information was released.

At the time authorities detailed the ongoing investigation, police identified Cole as the treasurer of the fireman’s relief association and said he was being investigated for “unauthorized spending.” Investigators said at the time that the misappropriated funds were spent at “restaurants, online shopping and entertainment.”

Cole, who served as an Allentown police officer since 2000, resigned in August, Allentown police Chief Tony Alsleben said Thursday. Cole was also discharged from the fire company, police say.

“A preliminary review of documents indicates numerous incidents of misappropriation of funds at restaurants, online shopping and entertainment,” said a statement from Lehigh Township police.

The association is separate from the Lehigh Township Volunteer Fire Co. but supports the firefighters there. Members of the board could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Association Vice President Travis Wuchter has said the accounts in question are state-funded and intended to purchase fire equipment necessary for protecting the community, as well as survivor’s benefits for volunteer firefighters.

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