3 former chiefs arrested for organized fraud

By FireRescue1 Staff

BROOKSVILLE, Fla. — Three former chiefs of a volunteer fire department are each charged with organized fraud after an investigation of misappropriation of funds.

Tampa Bay Times reported that Brooksville Fire Department Capt. David Murdock, Travis Morris and current Brooksville Fire Department Chief David Freda, all former chiefs of Hernando Beach Volunteer Fire Department, were arrested after a seven-month investigation.

The investigation started after allegations from a resident that the department was misusing funds collected from property owners in the community.

"I've been alerted to activity regarding the writing and cashing of checks for personal interests," the homeowner said. "I've been told that a former chief bought and paid for travel expenses for him and his girlfriend to attend an international chief's convention overseas."

The resident also said the former chiefs of the department traded department gasoline for beer and cigarettes with the volunteers, and one of them used tax dollars to remodel his home.

The investigation found through budget documents that the chiefs and other employees also received thousands of dollars in compensation.

Former firefighter Don Bisson said the fire department management was the worst he’d ever seen.

"If the residents are thinking they are getting any form of fire/EMS service, they are deceiving themselves. It is unprofessional to say the least,'' Bisson wrote. "The county should take over the coverage.''

After the allegations, acting Chief Dan Chichester shut the department down.

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