The case marks the second time this week that the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia has put volunteer firefighters accused of corruption in its crosshairs. On Wednesday, Jerry Keith Cromer Jr., 79, longtime treasurer of the Aldie Volunteer Fire Department in Loudoun County, admitted in a pre-indictment plea
that he stole more than $645,000 from his organization and used it to pay off his mortgage and credit card bills and fix his car.
Prosecutors accused Stuart, of Bealton, of a similar crime, saying he embezzled about $40,000 from fire department financial accounts for which he had “signature authority.” Taylor’s scheme, however, was not so simple, authorities said.
Taylor, a licensed master electrician who worked in facilities services for Prince William County schools, served as chief of the Remington fire department from 1994 to 2011. Starting in October 2007, the station underwent a major renovation project with $3.5 million in funding from the Agriculture Department, authorities said. Taylor, authorities said, offered to work on the renovations and to be paid only for his “out of pocket” expenses.
Instead, authorities said, Taylor submitted fake invoices for materials he did not buy and billed labor charges for hours he did not work, authorities said. He also used a Prince William County public schools credit card to buy materials for the renovations — in some cases requesting reimbursement for the purchases from the fire department or others, authorities said.
In total, authorities said, Taylor cheated the department out of more than $90,000 and the school system out of $60,000. According to the indictment, he had a “gambling problem” and was known to spend time at a casino in Charles Town, W.Va., and to play the Virginia Lottery. He also is accused of not reporting “significant winnings” from the Virginia Lottery on his tax returns, according to the indictment.
Philip Kavits, a Prince William schools spokesman, said he was not sure how authorities were first tipped to Taylor’s alleged misdeeds, but school officials were “aware” of the investigation and had deferred to the federal authorities. He said Taylor, of Remington, worked in facilities services from the mid-1980s to 2011, when he retired.
Kavits said it was not uncommon for employees to have school-issued credit cards to buy supplies, and those purchases were typically reviewed by supervisors in each budget area. He said school officials also periodically conducted audits to account for all purchases.
Remington Fire Chief Ian Brill said there had been “an ongoing investigation for quite some time” at the fire department, though he was not sure how it originated. He said officials were still determining whether the lost money could be recouped.
In an unrelated case last year, authorities said that Paul Draisey, a popular Loudoun County radio personality and the treasurer of the Middleburg Volunteer Fire Department, was suspected of taking almost $500,000 from the organization. He killed himself after members of the department’s board started asking questions about the group’s funds.