By Thomasi McDonald
The News & Observer
RALEIGH, N.C. — A former chief of a volunteer fire department in Johnston County is accused of embezzling nearly $26,000.
Kenan Wayne Kearney, 44, of 525 Thompson Road in Four Oaks was arrested last Wednesday and charged with six counts of insurance fraud and seven counts of embezzlement. State insurance investigators made the announcement Tuesday.
Kearney was suspended as chief of the Blackman's Crossroads Volunteer Fire Department after a “prior arrest” by the Johnston County Sheriff's Office, according to a news release by Mike Causey, the North Carolina insurance commissioner.
Special agents with the criminal investigations division of the state Department of Insurance accused Kearney of falsely presenting statements supporting insurance claims on an American Alternative Insurance Company policy. They say Kearney embezzled nearly $26,000 in insurance claim payments intended for the fire department and pocketed the money for his own use.
Kearney submitted bogus claims for four portable radios, a portable air pack and a thermal imaging device that were reported lost or damaged, investigators say.
Causey said in a statement that Kearny's arrest was “heartbreaking.”
“I hope the firefighters and the people in the fire district will rally around the department as it moves forward following this sad news,” he said.
Insurance fraud costs state residents between 15 cents and 20 cents of every dollar paid on insurance premiums — and it's getting worse, Causey said.
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