STOCKTON - The president of the Chautauqua County Fireman's Fraternity was charged Tuesday for taking money from the group and using it for personal use.
Robert Kawski, 50, of Bowen Road, Stockton, was charged with third-degree grand larceny and two counts of issuing a bad check on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.
The Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigation Division conducted an investigation into the loss of money from the Chautauqua County Fireman's Fraternity in Stockton. According to police, Kawski, the fraternity president, had obtained a bank debit card without the permission of the board of directors. It is alleged that he then used the card at various places to take money out of the fraternity's bank account.
"The indicators are, it would be like an embezzlement, he was working for them, and took the money from the account for alleged personal use," said David Foley, Chautauqua County district attorney.
Foley said that under New York penal law, there is no statute for embezzlement, which is why Kawski was charged with grand larceny.
"It certainly was not an isolated incident, there was certainly more than one incident of using funds from this facility for his own personal use, it would appear," Foley said.
Kawski was taken into custody on a warrant issued out of Stockton Town Court. He was arraigned in Pomfret Town Court and taken to the Chautauqua County Jail with bail set at $10,000 cash or $20,000 property bond.
This is not the first time a firefighter has been caught up in a situation such as this.
Two Silver Creek residents, Stephanie L. Westbrook and George E. Westbrook Jr., were charged with third-degree grand larceny and removed from the Silver Creek Fire Department for allegedly stealing more than $44,000 from the Silver Creek Emergency Squad account in 2008.
A Cattaraugus County man was charged with falsifying business records while working with the Leon Fire District. According to the Cattaraugus County Sheriff's Office, while working as a treasurer for the Leon Fire Department from January 2008 to February 2011, Frederick G. Weaver Jr., allegedly stole more than $30,000 from the district's savings account.
Foley said that organizations can protect themselves from this type of situation by watching the accounts closely.
"Anyone who is coming on board to take over these positions, you should ask and request to do a background check on them to make sure they haven't had any past histories with this sort of thing, check with prior employers to make sure they didn't have any problems with the individual and just make sure that you stay on top of the accounts," Foley said. "As a board, you really need to take a look at what is going on on a monthly basis. That is not to say you will prevent it, but these things happen over an extended period of time. It is a slow process and the person ends up over time becoming more and more bold and taking more and more, rather then an isolated event."