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Ex-rescue chief faces embezzlement charge

December 24, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A former ambulance rescue chief for the South Berkeley Volunteer Fire Department was charged with buying personal items with a Wal-Mart credit card that was supposed to be used for fire department purchases, police said.

William A. Feimster, 24, of 1966 Rock Cliff Drive, Martinsburg, was charged with embezzlement. He was released on $5,000 bond after being arraigned by Berkeley County Magistrate S.E. Paugh.

Police began looking into the case after Gary Collis of the Berkeley County Ambulance Authority alleged that Feimster had purchased items for his personal use, said Sgt. Russell Shackelford of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department.

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Collis told police that Feimster was given a county Wal-Mart credit card to make purchases for the fire department, Shackelford said in a criminal complaint filed in Berkeley County Magistrate Court.

One purchase was made in June and 10 purchases were made in September for a total of $1,036, the complaint stated.

The items purchased were for Feimster's personal use or for his place of work, the complaint said.

"None of the eleven purchases were for the South Berkeley Fire Department as they should have been for," Shackelford said in the complaint.

The Wal-Mart store is next to the Martinsburg Mall off Foxcroft Avenue.

The credit card also was used to buy personal items in Charles Town, W.Va., and Hagerstown, and those allegations have been referred to authorities in those cities for investigation, Shackelford said in the complaint

Jefferson County Sheriff's Deputy Robert Sell said Tuesday that his department was investigating the case, but no charges had been filed.

Feimster initially denied his involvement in the purchases during an interview with Shackelford on Oct. 29, and told Shackelford that the credit card had been stolen and was used by someone else, the criminal complaint said.

Feimster later told Shackelford that he had some financial problems and decided to use the credit card for his personal use, the complaint alleges.

The ambulance rescue chief position involves overseeing South Berkeley's ambulance operations, Petry said.

About six weeks ago, the board of directors for the South Berkeley Volunteer Fire Department temporarily removed Feimster from his position as ambulance rescue chief until the case is resolved, fire chief Rick Petry said Tuesday.

Feimster also is not allowed to respond to any calls until the case is resolved, Petry said.

Feimster has served as ambulance chief for most of this past year, Petry said.

The fire department's ambulance service is separate from the rest of the department and is overseen by the Berkeley County Ambulance Authority, Petry said. The fire department is simply used to house the ambulance equipment, Petry said.

"This really doesn't have anything to do with our fire department," Petry said.

A conviction on an embezzlement charge carries a possible punishment of one to 10 years in prison and up to a $2,500 fine, court records said.

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