A former AuSable Forks Volunteer Fire Department chief pleaded guilty last week to stealing thousands of dollars from the department.
Jason F. Whisher pleaded guilty to petit larceny and forgery in the third degree in front of Jay town Justice Robert Minogue Dec. 9 in town court. He was originally arraigned on charges of grand larceny in the third degree and forgery in the second degree.
The charges stem from a long-running scheme to defraud the fire department of thousands of dollars.
Clinton County Chief Assistant District Attorney Tim Blatchley said it's impossible to know how much money Whisher stole because part of his scheme was to take cash from department fundraisers. Blatchley said he could estimate the amount based on fundraisers in prior years, but it would only be a vague estimate.
"The only person who knows exactly how much he stole was him," Blatchley said.
Whisher also wrote checks out to himself and used the department's tax-exempt status to buy things for himself, never paying the department back. Blatchley said the amount Whisher stole through those routes was easy to determine.
Minogue sentenced Whisher to one year of conditional discharge from jail, meaning he won't have to serve time as long as he pays $1,050 in fees and charges on time and doesn't get arrested again, Blatchley said.
Whisher paid $8,500 in restitution in court.
"That was part of the deal," Blatchley said. "Nothing would have happened if he didn't have restitution ready to go."
Blatchley said he could have allowed Whisher to pay the $8,500 back over time and make his release conditional on that as well, but he didn't want the fire department to have to wait on the money.
The number $8,500 was reached as an agreement between Blatchley and the public defender who represented Whisher, based on an independent audit and meetings with Whisher. He likely stole more money than that, Blatchley said.