First Arriving Network
First Arriving Network

Burned VFD Struggles to Rebuild

Treasury Plundered Prior to Firehouse Fire

IT WAS TWO YEARS AGO, IN DECEMBER 2008 that a suspicious fire ripped through the New Sharon, New Jersey, fire station in Gloucester County.  The blaze destroyed their only two firetrucks, a pumper and a brush truck, and consumed almost everything else inside, including running gear, tools, and fire equipment.  But that was just the beginning of their woes.

Firefighters drag what equipment they could salvage out of the
New Sharon firehouse on the night of the costly fire in 2008.
(Philadelphia Inquirer photo)

It was the fire that exposed the fact that one of their long-time members had been plundering the bank account of the 99-yr.-old VFD.  The Philadelphia Inquirer tells us:

An FBI investigation revealed that the company’s treasurer, Charles Mancini, 45, of Wenonah, had robbed the company for years. First he took out an unauthorized $90,000 bank loan in the company’s name. Then, after the fire, he stole $448,990 in insurance money.

To conceal his thievery, Mancini, who also was the company’s president, gave members bogus bank statements, authorities said.

In September, Mancini pleaded guilty to fraud and embezzlement in federal court in Camden. He will be sentenced in March and faces 10 years in prison, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

The cause of the fire, which the Gloucester County fire marshal said had begun in an electrical closet, is listed as “undetermined.”

The investigation is continuing, however, and “the fire is still considered suspicious,” said Detective George Johnson, a Deptford police spokesman.

Since that time the 19 volunteers have been struggling to raise the $300,000 needed to repair the firehouse plus the funds needed to purchase a fire engine and equipment.  They are unable to acquire a bank loan because Mancini had used the firehouse property as collateral for his loan and the lien continues to rest on the property.
The members are planning a fund-raiser at a local Applebee’s the day of Mancini’s sentencing. The firefighters will have an opportunity to address Mancini in court.

“A lot of people have bad words for him and will talk about what they would like to do him if it were legal,” Frank Ellis, the company’s secretary, told the Inquirer.  Read the full STORY HERE.

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