Darlington reacts to volunteer firefighter embezzlement accusations

Jonathan Grossen could be in court Tuesday
Darlington reacts to volunteer firefighter embezzlement accusations

The fire department in Darlington is moving on as one of its own, a volunteer firefighter, sits in jail facing embezzlement charges.

Darlington police said they arrested Jonathan Grossen, 30, on Friday, after investigating questionable cash withdrawals he made while treasurer of the community fire department.

“I think that there is a sense of betrayal,” said Jason King, whose department used bank records and surveillance video to make the arrest. “It’s a tight brotherhood amongst the firefighters, they trust one another and they would’ve never suspected in a million years that one would steal from another.”

The department relies on volunteer officers, including Grossen, who was treasurer for three years.

The report referred to the Lafayette County District Attorney’s Office by the police alleges Grossen stole $47,284 in cash from the department’s donation accounts over the three-year period. A stolen check worth more than $7,000 was recovered, King said.

Police said Grossen stole the money in small increments that went unnoticed until recent months. He was not re-elected to the treasurer position in 2012 and his term ended in March, King said.

After Grossen was not re-elected, he handed over records that revealed several suspicious withdrawals, police said.

Police said once the fire department noticed the suspicious withdrawals, they brought the matter to the attention of the Darlington Police Department and asked that it be investigated.

The amount of money came as a shock to firefighters, Fire Chief Ted McDermott said.

“I don’t believe any of us knew it was going to be that large,” he said.

Darlington reacts to volunteer firefighter embezzlement accusations

The money is gone for now, although a court could order that it be repaid. Grossen could make his initial court appearance as early as Tuesday afternoon.

The department takes in about $50,000 in donations yearly, meaning the lost money is about equal to one year’s fundraising work.

Fire officials will now ensure that two people are in charge of the financial accounts, to make it more accountable.

“It’s got to start here with our members, we’ve got to trust each other and be positive in general about what’s happening, what’s happened and what’ll happen in the future,” McDermott said.

Residents said details of the case were disturbing, but that they would continue to donate to the fire department through its various fundraisers.

“That’s a lot of money, incredible that he could get away with that,” said Gene Knapp, who lives outside Darlington. “Around here, most people keep their doors unlocked and everyone takes everyone by their word.”