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Thousands taken from fire company Jamison Road Fire still adding up loss

Authorities are investigating the theft of a large amount of money from the Jamison Road Volunteer Fire Company in Elma. The amount of missing money is believed to be as high as $140,000, town officials told The Buffalo News Saturday.

The Erie County District Attorney's Office, a forensic accountant and an attorney for the volunteer company are investigating, Fire Chief Brian Nolan and fire company attorney Mark C. Butler confirmed.

"We have 46 members. We cover six square miles, an area with 1,100 residents," Nolan said. "This makes us all sick to our stomachs."

The forensic auditors hired by the company are expected to issue their report by the end of this month, Butler told The News, and that document should give a clearer picture of the total amount of missing money.

Officials at the Jamison Road company discovered that a significant amount of money was missing last August or early September during a routine audit of the department's finances, Butler said.

The missing money probably did not come out of the company's operating budget, the lawyer said. The company had been setting aside money toward the purchase of a new fire truck, Butler said, and it's likely the missing money came out of that fund.

"We're not sure about all of the details," he said.

Nolan and Butler would not talk about any suspicions fire company officials have about who is responsible for the thefts.

If the district attorney determines a crime was committed, Butler said, such a theft is a violation of the public trust and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Butler added he expects the fire company's insurance coverage will replace the missing money.

This would not be the first major theft at an area volunteer fire company.

In January 2005, the former treasurer of the Allegany Indian Reservation Volunteer Fire Department was found guilty of stealing more than $40,000 from the department. The company's former president also pleaded guilty to attempted grand larceny.

A volunteer firefighter was accused in 2004 of stealing money from the Clarendon Fire Company Recreation Hall in Albion, though the disposition of that case wasn't available Saturday.

e-mail: dherbeck@buffnews.com and swatson@buffnews.com

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