Fire chief’s embezzlement scheme uncovered by AP audit

Business and organization leaders are often people that are respected by employees and they frequently serve as role models. However, sometimes these figures can falter, leaving companies in dire situations. Such was the case with the fire chief of a volunteer department in Mint Hill, North Carolina.

Jeremy Russell, who served as the leader for the Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Department, is accused of embezzling from the organization, reports the Charlotte Observer. An AP audit revealed that Russell took more than $225,000 from the department and used the funds to pay for a variety of personal items. Investigators allege that Russell managed to embezzle the large amount by creating a fake company, called Regional Medical & First Responder Supply Connection, and then submitting invoices to the department for services and equipment from the fraudulent company that were never rendered. Mint Hill paid out the amounts to Regional Medical, and the funds were sent directly to a bank account under Russell's name.

The news source reports that Russell's illegal scheme went unnoticed for nearly two years, as the all the invoices that were submitted to the department were for $5,000 or less. Employees who handled the organization's financial duties stated that they thought the bills from Russell's fake company were just a part of daily operations.

It is believed that the former fire chief used the stolen money to buy various personal items as well as support his gambling habit, according to WCNC-TV. Russell has pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement and could be facing up to 10 years in prison. He has also been ordered to forfeit all of the possessions he purchased with the funds and pay back $225,000 to the Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Department.

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