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Halfway Fire Co. administrator and former chief is charged with misusing funds

Jeffrey C. Ringer of Hagerstown is accused of more than $10,089.68 in alleged unauthorized spending

February 27, 2013|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com
  • An exterior view of The Volunteer Fire Company of Halfway, Md. Inc. is shown in this file photo. Jeffrey C. Ringer, the administrator and former chief of The Volunteer Fire Company of Halfway, Md. Inc., has been charged with misusing more than $10,000 in company funds over four years to pay for bar and restaurant bills, and a family member's tuition, according to the application for statement of charges filed by Maryland State Police.
Herlad-Mail file photo

Jeffrey C. Ringer, the administrator and former chief of The Volunteer Fire Company of Halfway, Md. Inc., has been charged with misusing more than $10,000 in company funds over four years to pay for bar and restaurant bills, and a family member’s tuition, according to the application for statement of charges filed by Maryland State Police.

Ringer, 53, of 11221 Hollywood Road, Hagerstown, was issued a summons Wednesday on charges of theft of more than $500 and theft scheme of more than $500, Washington County District Court records said.

Ringer, in a phone conversation Wednesday night, said, “Through further investigation I’ll be able to justify that the credit card purchases were legitimate business expenses for the fire company.”

Halfway Fire Co. President Jeff Kimble said Wednesday that Ringer was the former chief and is still the company’s administrator.

“No one from state police has notified me that there was even an investigation going on,” Kimble said.

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“I kind of knew the investigation was still going on, but I didn’t suspect it would come to this,” former fire company President Jim Kimble Sr., Jeff Kimble’s brother, said Wednesday. “I thought it could all be answered.”

“I’m disappointed. I’m shocked,” Jim Kimble said. “Just heart-crushing to hear that.”

Jim Kimble, who was president from 1993 through December 2010, said that Ringer “was very much a major asset to the fire department. He served as chief for many years. He led the department in a lot of good directions.”

At the time of the investigation, Ringer was being paid approximately $87,000 a year as Halfway’s paid administrator, the charging document said.

The investigation that led to the charges against Ringer began in November 2009 when state police were contacted by Washington County Gaming Commission Director James Hovis, the charging document said.

Jim Kimble, then president of the company, had contacted Hovis about suspicions that money was being stolen or embezzled from its bingo operations and tip jar sales, the document said.

The company’s gaming operation was looked into by the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section and the IRS “but no criminal activity was immediately detected,” the charging document said.

The charging document listed $10,089.68 in alleged unauthorized spending by Ringer between March 17, 2005, and March 13, 2009.

That included $7,694.48 in unauthorized expenditures using a fire company credit card; reimbursing his personal credit card account from the fire company checking account for $1,807 in college tuition; and $588.20 reimbursed to his credit card from a company checking account for restaurant and bar bills, the charging document said.

Ringer said Wednesday that in many of these cases, a fire company official “was present and approved, or directed me, to use the fire company credit card.”

Any other information would have to come from his attorney John Salvatore, Ringer said.

Ten transactions were listed between 2005 and 2008 for which police allege Ringer used fire company checks to reimburse his credit card account for bar and restaurant bills, the charging document said.

Ringer paid for a family member’s tuition at Hagerstown Community College with his personal credit card in 2006 and then used fire company checks to pay those bills, the document alleged.

The majority of the unauthorized expenditures — more than 100 — were on a fire company credit card issued to Ringer, the charging document said. Most of those were for restaurants in the Hagerstown area, but included some in Virginia Beach, Va., Hancock, Cumberland, Md., Frederick, Md., Martinsburg, W.Va., and Greencastle, Pa.

Jim Kimble told Trooper Scott Bare that he and Ringer attended a Shriner’s convention in Virginia Beach each year and “any expenses there were not related to or approved by the fire company,” the charging document said.

A number of large check payments reimbursed to Ringer’s credit card account with fire company funds were found to be for approved fire company business, such as the costs for personnel to attend the annual Fire Department Instructors Conference in Indianapolis, the charging document said.

Purchase of a remote start kit and keyless entry system for a Mitsubishi was also listed, although former president Jim Kimble told investigators the fire company did not have any vehicles of that make, the charging document said.

Bare wrote in the charging document that a number of Halfway trustees and officers were interviewed and “each advised that the transactions listed ... were not related to VFCH business, that they were not aware that the defendant was spending VFCH funds in this way, (and) that the charges listed would not have been authorized by the Executive Board.”

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