On September 7, Ronald Watson, former treasurer of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 105F, pleaded guilty in Jefferson County, New York District Court to criminal possession of a forged instrument in the third degree. He then was sentenced to one year of conditional discharge and was ordered to pay $30,000 in restitution within 10 days. The union is based in Fort Drum, N.Y. The actions follow an investigation by the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.… Read More ➡
Harold Schaitberger (in photo), longtime head of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), has a reputation for wielding unchallenged power. But that power soon may dissipate in the wake of a memo prepared by the union’s number-two man. On March 20, IAFF Secretary-Treasurer Edward Kelly circulated a 105-page internal memorandum accusing Schaitberger and Kelly predecessor Thomas Miller of misusing or outright stealing about $6 million in union funds, especially pension assets. The memo, which followed an outside audit, also accuses Schaitberger of concealing these losses from the union executive board. Schaitberger disputes the charges, calling them “reckless and destructive.” But the IRS, the Department of Labor and the U.S. Attorney’s Office are conducting a probe that may conclude otherwise.
The International Association of Fire Fighters, which represents more than 300,000 firefighters in the U.S. and Canada, is a very influential public-sector union. And Harold Schaitberger is a big reason … Read More ➡
Oscar Picazo’s colleagues aren’t happy right now – and with good reason. On December 16, Picazo, former captain with the City of Lodi Fire Department and treasurer of the Lodi Professional Firefighters Union, was charged in San Joaquin County Superior Court with embezzling $297,000 from the union, also known as International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 1225. He waived his right to a preliminary hearing at his arraignment on December 22. The actions follow a City investigation. In a prepared statement, the union said: “The Lodi Professional Firefighters has been coping with the damage inflicted by (Picazo) for several months. The LPF was very disappointed to discover that Mr. Picazo violated the trust placed in him by the union.”
According to prosecutors, Picazo fleeced his union during January 2010-August 2016. News of the thefts surfaced after the City of Lodi this summer initiated an investigation at local union request; … Read More ➡
Sheron Gibson won the trust of his union – too much, in fact. On March 5, Gibson, a former firefighter for the City of Suffolk, Va. fire department, pleaded guilty in a state court to one count each of embezzlement and forgery in connection with his theft of about $109,000 from International Association of Firefighters Local 2801, where he was secretary-treasurer for a half-decade. He had been indicted last June on 12 counts of embezzlement and one count of forgery following a police investigation. Gibson has made full restitution.
Gibson, now 41, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., had served as secretary-treasurer of his union from 2008 until around early 2014. He was well-regarded among his peers. Though a volunteer, he was named Firefighter of the Year in 2009. With a background as a medic, he taught emergency medical courses to fire department personnel in Suffolk, a sprawling city of about … Read More ➡
Sheron Gibson had built an excellent reputation over the years. Apparently, he also was willing to undermine it. On June 25, Gibson, a longtime firefighter with the City of Suffolk, Virginia, was indicted in a state circuit court on 12 counts of embezzlement and one count of forgery following his arrest for the theft of at least $50,000, and likely more than $100,000, from the union where he served as treasurer, Local 2801 of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF). Following his arrest, he was released on a $2,500 bond.
Gibson, 41, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., was a local leader in safety promotion. Having joined the Suffolk fire department in 2003, he would be named Firefighter of the Year in 2009. A former medic, he taught emergency medical courses to fire department personnel in that city of 85,000. He even had been named Emergency Medical Technician of … Read More ➡
Robert Perez made a living as a fire detective. But for the last several months the retired employee of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department had police detectives on his trail. And the police search seems to have paid off. On August 30, Perez, a former captain and insurance investigator with the department, turned himself in to county sheriff’s office for arrest. Evidence indicated that over a roughly six-year period he had stolen approximately $114,000 from his union, International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 2046, and on top of that, submitted false tax returns. Perez was released on his own recognizance after a court rescheduled his arraignment date. He faces up to eight years in prison.
Santa Barbara County, California, now with a population of more than 400,000 to go along with its postcard-perfect Pacific coastline, is hardly immune to fires. And in Robert Joseph Perez, a resident of … Read More ➡
On May 29, Daniel Kramer, former secretary-treasurer of International Association of Fire Fighters Local I-45, was charged in the Circuit Court for Fauquier County, Virginia with one count of grand larceny of an unspecified amount from the union. The union is based in Newport News, in southeastern Virginia; the offenses were committed in Fauquier County, on the outskirts of the Washington, D.C. metro area. The charge follows an investigation by the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.… Read More ➡
Kevin Howard has been on sick leave for the last several months, but he may wind up on permanent leave. On August 11, a U.S. District Court in Lynn, Massachusetts, determined that there is probable cause to issue a criminal complaint against Howard, a veteran firefighter and acting fire chief for the nearby community of Nahant, for multiple acts of embezzlement. The action was in response to a similar complaint filed earlier in the month by his union, International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 2718. In a separate action, Howard last month obtained a restraining order against a fellow firefighter whom he alleged had threatened to shoot him.
Nahant, connected by causeway to Lynn, is a picturesque beach town of some 3,000 people. Nationally, the community may be best known as the location of the lighthouse scenes for the recent Martin Scorsese film, “Shutter Island.” The ongoing … Read More ➡
Gregory Hitchcock might call it short-term borrowing. Law enforcement officials are calling it embezzlement. Hitchcock, deputy fire chief for the Lake Mishnock Fire Department in the Town of West Greenwich, Rhode Island, was charged on July 16 with embezzling nearly $8,000 from International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Local 4267, where he serves as president. It was his years as union treasurer, however, that is of concern to state investigators.
Hitchcock, 38, a resident of West Greenwich, had been local treasurer until April 2008. In an audit of statements covering December 2003-January 2008, his successor discovered a series of suspicious transfers between bank accounts in the names of Hitchcock and the union. The new treasurer informed the Rhode Island State Police Financial Crimes Unit of the discrepancies, who in turn conducted a six-month probe. The investigation concluded Hitchcock had withdrawn $7,757.11 from the local account and returned $6,339.06, for a … Read More ➡
The Boston Retirement Board has a reputation for taking a long time making decisions. In fact, this public-employee entity has allowed nearly 100 disability cases to pile up. An unexpected stroke of good luck may speed things up. If nothing else, it has given additional ammunition for an ongoing probe of the board and a close labor ally, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 718. On August 6, the Boston Herald reported that the board turned down a disability retirement claim by a union member, Albert Arroyo. The claim might have been approved had it not been for a YouTube video captured for posterity.
Arroyo, a Boston fireman, had filed a claim with the board, maintaining that he’d suffered career-ending back injuries on the job. But Arroyo had a parallel career as a bodybuilder. And not long after filing his claim, he … Read More ➡