BALDWIN (KDKA) — Fire Chief Leonard Novak walked out of the district judge’s office in Baldwin Friday morning with his head down.
He lamented after being told he had to turn in his firefighting equipment and have no contact with the Becks Run Independent Fire Department.
“I’m upset with it – 34 years of service so….,” he said.
His assistant fire chief, Stephen Bonetti, was also told to stay away from the fire department. The two are charged with scheming to steal more than $25,000 in fire funds.
“Mr. Bonetti has cooperated fully with this investigation,” Danielle Bacco, Bonetti’s attorney, said. “We are just looking forward to the proper administration of justice.”
Police say the two stole money over a five-year period from a state funded account set up to buy fire equipment for four fire departments in Baldwin Borough.
“We’ve uncovered a number of different ways that the fraud was being perpetuated,” Baldwin Police Chief Michael Scott said. “Some by fraudulent invoices that were submitted, some by blank checks that were signed, some by checks that were made out to Mr. Novak and cashed by Mr. Novak.”
Detectives said the men often cashed checks that were meant to go to the association account for themselves at a beer distributor.
“We’re very disappointed in the fact that where fire companies are struggling, particularly volunteer fire companies, you know, for funding and also for membership that a chief and assistant chief that are in those positions of responsibility would misuse the public trust and funds in that way,” Chief Scott said.
Novak and Bonetti were released on their own recognizance.