Ex-treasurer gets a deal in firefighters fund theft
Someone will have to pay restitution to the victim, the judge said.
By ED RUNYAN
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- A former treasurer of the defunct Gustavus Volunteer Firefighters Association has pleaded guilty to theft in exchange for dropping other charges against her.
Tangi Day Kopp, 45, of 475 York St., North Bloomfield, entered the plea Monday in the Trumbull County Common Pleas courtroom of Judge Peter Kontos. She will be sentenced in about four to six weeks.
She was indicted on charges of theft in office and tampering with records after a special state audit turned up problems between Jan. 1, 2002, and June 30, 2004.
Judge Kontos accepted her plea to the reduced charges but had questions when her attorney, Samuel Bluedorn of Warren, said there is a chance that insurance will pay the 6,995 in restitution.
"Her reduced plea was accepted because there was a financial angle involved in paying restitution," Judge Kontos said. "If she's not going to pay a nickel, why should I agree to a plea?" he said.
The penalty for the conviction could be between six and 12 months in prison and a 2,500 fine.
Bluedorn said the original charge of theft in office would have been difficult to prove because the money was taken from a nonprofit organization rather than a government body. Bluedorn added that there is no guarantee the insurance policy will cover the loss. He said it would be "ridiculous" for the insurance company and the defendant to both pay the money.
"One way or another, the victims will be paid 6,995 in restitution," Judge Kontos said.
The fire association was a nonprofit group that contracted with the township trustees to provide fire protection.
The audit, requested by the county prosecutor's office, came up with three findings for recovery totaling 6,595 in late 2005.
One charged that Day-Kopp did not deposit 5,794 into the association's bank account, primarily for firefighters' fund-raising events. It also said the association bought 20 jackets for firefighting volunteers for 1,526, but Day-Kopp paid 1,800 for them. She is responsible for the other 274.
The third finding, for 887, said Day-Kopp issued a check for 1,000 for used fire equipment. Of that amount, there were receipts for 113 for the purchases, and the balance could not be accounted for.
Township Trustee Robert S. Phillips said last year that after discrepancies came to light, the township refused to continue its contract with the association and the township took over firefighting responsibilities.
Gustavus Township Clerk Laura Hall first noticed the irregularities, which were then reported to the sheriff's department and prosecutor.