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The former Fire Chief of the Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Department pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $225,000 from the Town of Mint Hill and the Fire Department, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Jeremy K. Russell, 38, of Mint Hill, N.C., "used his position as Fire Chief to steal and embezzle from the Town of Mint Hill, the Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Department, and the taxpayers who supported those institutions," the official report states.
Russell carried out the embezzlement from May 2010 to April 2012, primarily by setting up a sham corporation, "Regional Medic & First Responder Supply Connection" ("Regional Medic"), with a corresponding bank account in the company's name that Russell personally controlled, the attorney's office told WBTV.
Russell also arranged for a mail drop in Regional Medic's name. According to the court document, Russell submitted false invoices from the sham company for equipment and services never provided to the Fire Department.
Russell kept the invoices under $5,000 and got the corresponding checks signed off by those at the Town and Fire Department with payment authority. According to the charging document, Russell picked up the checks at the mail drop and then deposited them into the bank account in Regional Medic's name.
Russell embezzled more than $225,000 in less than two years from the Town and the Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Department, which receives benefits in excess of $10,000 in federal assistance. According to the bill of information, Russell used the money to fund his personal lifestyle and a gambling habit.
According to the plea agreement also filed today, Russell has agreed to plead guilty to the embezzlement charge. As part of the plea agreement, which will be subject to court approval, Russell has also agreed to pay restitution to all victims directly or indirectly harmed.
The embezzlement offense carries a maximum term of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Russell's initial appearance and plea hearing will be scheduled by the U.S. District Court at a later time.