Ex-firefighter will plead guilty in theft of department funds

2013-06-20T18:23:00Z 2013-06-20T23:58:08Z Ex-firefighter will plead guilty in theft of department fundsStan Maddux Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
June 20, 2013 6:23 pm  • 

LAPORTE | For several years, Donald Gambrel embezzled tens of thousands of dollars from the Fire Department whose funds he was entrusted to guard.

Gambrel, of Kingsford Heights, has agreed to spend some time in jail but he'll have to repay just a portion of the funds he allegedly siphoned.

Gambrel, 45, pleaded guilty Wednesday to Class D felony theft. Under terms of the plea, Gambrel will receive a 90-day sentence in the LaPorte County Jail and 275 days on work release along with three years on probation.

He also must pay back the Kingsford-Union Fire Department $16,193 or face the possibility of serving his time on probation behind bars.

Gambrel, according to Indiana State Police, is suspected of stealing $86,860 during his term as Fire Department treasurer from 2002 to 2009. Gambrel was able to embezzle the funds because he had possession of items such as a credit card and checkbook belonging to the department. His arrest followed a change of officers at the department and later an audit when irregularities with the department's finances were discovered, police said.

Police said there were numerous instances of cash withdrawals, travel expenses and personal expenses, all unauthorized, along with undocumented expenses, reimbursements and other financial red flags.

LaPorte County Prosecutor Bob Szilagyi said Gambrel would not have to pay back all of the money because of a five-year statute of limitations on how far back in the string of thefts he can be held legally responsible.

A warrant was issued for his arrest in 2011, according to court records.

"We took everything that was taken in that five years," said Szilagyi.

A previous plea in the case from 2011 was rejected by Judge Tom Alevizos because the terms called for him to serve one year of home detention and pay $1,100 in restitution. The revised plea was taken under advisement and, if accepted, Gambrel is scheduled for sentencing July 17.

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