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Thieving Fire Chief Decides to Plead Guilty

Putting an End To a Nasty Tenure

THE FORMER ST. CLAIR FIRE PROTECTION District Fire Chief, Eric Hinson, 43, pleaded guilty this morning (Wednesday) to one felony count of fraud and five felony counts of tax evasion.  The former volunteer chief and treasurer of the department was indicted January 9 on fraud and multiple tax evasion charges involving his alleged misuse of about $593,236 of district funds between January 2006 and September 2011.  (See the Firegeezer video report from January 10 HERE.) 

The indictment said that Hinson used the money for a variety of things including vacations in Hawaii and Florida, tickets to Six Flags, payments for a pick-up truck, and furniture at Macy’s.   "He took it for family vacations, luxury goods, credit card charges," said U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan. "Basically each year between $100,000 and $130,000 was taken from the fire district."

The Ladue-Frontenac Patch adds:

In order to conceal his scheme Hinson accessed the District's QuickBooks to alter reported general ledger activity by backdating certain of his fraudulent transactions and by changing the payee in order to manipulate the District's accounting records so as to hide the existence of his fraudulent transactions. Through his fraudulent conduct, Hinson obtained approximately $593,236 from the St. Clair Fire Protection District.

He had pleaded not guilty at last month's indictment, but decided to change his plea and was scheduled for today's hearing where he did so. When he is sentenced, Hinson could face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for the fraud charge. Each count of tax evasion carries a maximum penalty of five years and a fine of up to $100,000.

In addition to his volunteer duties, he was a full-time paid firefighter in the Ladue FD for 19 years and retired suddenly in September after learning of the IRS investigation of his finances.  For additional background on this case, see the Firegeezer video report on September 13 Two-Hatter Under Investigation HERE.

The Ladue-Frontenac Patch has more details HERE.

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