By Ann Rowland
Chester Yurkovic, 56, was a member of the Imperial Volunteer Fire Department in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania for 16 years. He has now been arraigned on theft charges for stealing more than $5,000 while he was president of the department. He is accused of taking money from fundraisers and for using the department’s credit card to purchase gas and pizza for himself.
When fellow firefighters grew suspicious that the chief might be embezzling funds from their department, they set up a sting. After a t-shirt fundraiser, they photographed the money that was raised and then gave it to Yurkovic to deposit. After the deposit was made, the department officials realized that $650 was missing from what should have been an $856 deposit. Yurkovic was suspended from the department in February of 2013.
The criminal complaint alleges that Yurkovic took cash from the department’s Monday night bingo games, boot drives and other fundraisers. It also alleges that he used the department credit card for personal use. Police say that Yurkovic tried to hide the theft by saving community donation checks to make up the difference between the cash he was taking when he made deposits to the fire company’s bank account. Yurkovic surrendered himself and was arraigned on Monday in Allegheny County.
Imperial Volunteer Fire Department Chief Bob Bradburn told KDKA-Pittsburgh that they have been able to account for all of the money that the former chief stole and he wants the community to rest assured that they can trust the department going forward. In light of the embezzlement, the department has also changed its accounting methods.
“We don’t want the community to worry about this impacting the funds that they give us on our fund drives. We caught the issue and we acted on it immediately. We didn’t let it go any further than what we knew about. We suspended him last year and he has not been back since,” Bradburn said.
The knowledge that one of their own stole from them has deeply impacted this department. “We were hurt, we trusted the guy,” said Bradburn.
Yurkovic was asked by KDKA if he feels badly for what he has allegedly done. He replied “Yeah, that I’m charged, but I have nothing to say.”