"Moving Out So That Others Can Move Up …"
THE FORMER PRESIDENT OF A PLATTE COUNTY, Missouri, ambulance district was sentenced this morning (Thursday) after pleading guilty in October for a fraudulent land-flip deal that cost the taxpayers $144,000. Kevin Rawlings, 40, the former president of the Northland Regional Ambulance District, was sentenced to pay restitution of $125,000, serve 15 days in jail, and one year's probation.
Firegeezer reported this crime in February of this year after Rawlings had been arrested for buying land that he knew could be used for a new ambulance station and then resold a portion of it to the ambulance district at an inflated price. He bought the 34 acres of farmland in April 2010 for $130,000 and then sold 1.5 acres of it to the ambulance authority for $175,000 netting himself $45,000 cash plus the remaining 32+ acres for a profit of $144,000. The full 35-acre plot was later appraised at $30,600. (See the Firegeezer article Ambulance Official Charged in Land-Flip Deal HERE.)
Rawlings was elected board president in 2006. He knew as early as 2008 that the district wanted to build a new station near Route U at the Camden Point exit, Zahnd said.
During a board meeting in September 2010, Rawlings directed the group’s executive director to begin searching for available property in the same area. A month later, the ambulance district board voted to begin negotiations to buy two acres of the land owned by Rawlings. At a closed board meeting in November 2010, the district’s attorney suggested that bid specifications be written to solicit bids from the public for property in the Camden Point area.
Those requests for bids were posted in local newspapers, but Rawlings was the only person to make a formal proposal. Negotiations to buy that property from Rawlings had started before the bid posting. When another potential seller came forward, Rawlings directed the executive director to reply that the ambulance district already had "a contract on (the) ground" and wouldn’t need more bids, Zahnd said.
Circuit Court Judge Dennis Eckold ordered Rawlings to pay $125,000 in restitution within 30 days to the district and sentenced him to a year behind bars but suspended imposition of the sentence. He ordered the 15-day jail term as "shock time."
Northland Regional Ambulance District WEBSITE.
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FROM MINT HILL, NORTH CAROLINA, WBTV-TV is reporting that last week 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. The station tells us:
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.
A Former Fire Chief (Observer / Johnston)
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.
In explaining why he was able to get away with it for two years, the Charlotte Observer adds:
According to the documents, Russell submitted bogus invoices from Regional Medical for equipment and services that were never used. The invoices were generally small, under $5,000, which helped Russell avoid detection, a fire official who approved some of the invoices said.
"We run a lot of calls, and running two ambulances like we do for transport, it’s very expensive to operate, so when the bills came in, it just looked like it was day-to-day operations," said Jerry Mullis, the chairman of the Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Department’s board of directors. "You put your trust in people. It’s what we’ve done for almost 60 years. I’m chairman of the board of directors. I sign the checks. I see the invoices. It was just not questionable."
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